The Night Of Enlightenment
The Night Of Enlightenment6 mins 500 6 mins 500
"A man can only be as weak as his doubts weigh him down."
Many autumns ago, it was a Diwali night. As it is in all parts of India, a small town, Darjeeling, lying on the lap of the Himalayas was no exception – it too bathed in lights. The entire hill glowed as a glittering crown on top of a monarch’s head. The dark Amavasya night was illuminated a little more as my sister and I took turns to light the neatly arranged earthen oil lamps outside our house. The smell of new clothes, delicious sweets and half burnt crackers made young and old excited alike. The sound of the bursting crackers and swishing rockets filled the atmosphere. But there was yet another sound…
“Deusurey! Deusurey!”, chanted a well-synchronized group with rhythmic claps somewhere in the distance. I ran towards the balcony to witness a group of well-dressed gentlemen in their traditional attire. They were all smiles singing and dancing while entire residents engulfed them clapping along. This was a cultural traditional group singing slokas of Ramayana from house to house. During Diwali, there are specific days for ladies and gents for this activity and with time people have formed the modern version with songs and rhymes dipped in musical instruments. It is equally satisfying to witness as it is to perform. Like a sudden burst of a rocket in the dark sky, the urge to perform illuminated my face and fueled my vocal cord.
“Mother! Mother!”, I blurted out in excitement.
“Yes, my son,” she replied calmly.
“Can I also play Deusi, please?”, I made the cutest face possible.
“Sure, but you would need a team. Why don’t you ask a few of your friends to join?”, she replied.
“Thank you, mother”, I was already rushing.
“Listen!”, she commanded, “Make sure you come home on time.”
“Ok…”, I ran adjusting my woolen jacket.
In another half an hour, I was able to gather three people – Ravi, Manish and Nischal. While Ravi and Manish were my friends, Nischal was Manish’s far cousin. Ravi was a bit skeptical to join in the beginning; he had several questions to ask. After having received satisfying answers and a gentle tap of motivation from his parents, he had agreed to join. Manish, on the other hand, had immediately said yes and influenced Nischal to tag along. Nischal along with his parents had visited Manish’s place for Diwali vacation. Though the families met often Manish and Nischal hadn’t spent time together so didn’t know each other much. We were all dressed and prepared for another few hours of adventure. We selected a few houses in our locality, had some rhymes to sing and thus the journey began.
With every house we visited, their enthusiasm to welcome us was evident. The audience encouraged us whenever we stumbled and sang along with us. It felt great and dopamine supply was in plenty. During these activities, Nischal was the only person who was hiding behind the crowd. He wasn’t interactive and had never heard him speak loudly. “Maybe he is new among us…”, I drowned the thoughts and plunged into the pool of excitement.
As we completed the house, we sat on a public bench; we had our last house left and it was already nearing nine. Nine was quite late in normal days as people there slept early. Being Diwali night, the roads were well lit. I inquired Manish if Nischal was always quite and if he was having a good time. He dismissed saying that everything was fine. Ravi also seemed to have noticed something strange about him. The train of thoughts applied brakes as Manish's fist punched the air,” The last house!” He continued, “How about visiting Miss Reena’s house; we swap the last house.” Hearing Miss Reena’s name, the air seemed even more exciting. She was a teacher in our school known for her gracefulness and friendliness. Ravi protested," There is a dark path to cross to the other side of the society.” I could capture the uneasiness built on Nischal’s face which he covered with an awkward smile. “Was he hiding something or was I just exaggerating things?” I thought but the imminent thrill conquered all doubts. “We have a torch”, I reminded.
Following the circular beam of light, we all walked through the path. When one acts on fear, thrill and excitement combined – it is a beautiful feeling of triumph. It was about half a kilometer walk on a narrow path flanked on one side by the garden wall and on the other side by a bushy inclined drop of few meters. In a distance, the lights were visible but the path darker than usual. Moreover, the torch was not enough to cover us all. Nischal was at the end, walking awkwardly along the stretch. At that moment, I heard bushes crushing and a thud somewhere below. We all turned and yelled,” Who’s there?”
Fear crawled in and terminated all thrill and excitement. It took us a while to realize that Manish was not there. The searching torch beam wandered aimlessly but nothing. Finally, I traced back and saw the cracked shrubs, he had slipped off the slope. Manish panicked, “My parents will kill me!” Ravi was contemplating with a forced wrinkle on his young forehead. I shouted his name and heard a faint help somewhere below. “You need to be louder”, yelled Ravi. Nischal shouted, “I’m here! I’m here!” He was not too far down but his pain obvious in his voice. We flashed the torch in that direction and there he was stuck in the vegetation like a helpless animal waiting for rescue. We took off our clothes tied it together and dropped it towards him. It took us some time, but he was able to grab it. Gradually, grunting and panting we pulled him up. Phew! What a relief it was! Without sharing many words, we retraced our path back to the public bench. Deafening silence was broken by heartbreaking sob from Nischal. “I’m extremely sorry, it is all my fault” he broke into inconsolable tears. How would it be his fault? It was us who took him there in the first place. I’m sure this was the question in our minds.
Meanwhile, Nischal stifled his sob and wiped his tears – it was evident he was mustering courage for his next words. “I suffer from night blindness and I’m unable to see in the dark. I have never shared this before with anyone, not even my parents. I don’t know if they know it or not, but it is a burden to grow up with a defect like this. I thought there was something wrong in me and that shattered my confidence. The whole episode accumulated but I buried them safe in my heart until today. I felt lonely and depressed. The world seemed colorless as anytime night would come and rob my happiness. The physical pain is nothing before the years of self-doubt I’ve been through” he poured his heart out. He wept for some more time; we let him and looked at each other’s empathetic face.
After a while, Ravi broke the silence, “don’t worry brother, I too have doubts and I’m sure all of us have. They are just in different forms.” I continued, “Yes and it is good you opened up; sharing helps to lighten up. Instead of running we should face the self-doubts, acknowledge it and seek ways to remove them.” Forming a circle, Manish added, “Your loved ones can be of immense help. Sometimes, people aren’t aware, we need to tell them.”
Nischal cheering up said, “Come on! How do you guys know all this?” We synchronized laughing, “Miss Reena enlightened us.” That night it brightened four lives. We dusted our clothes, smiled and headed for our last house.