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A Hundred Little Flames
A Hundred Little Flames

© Amritha Prem


7 Minutes   19.5K    191

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Poongoothai came running to the kitchen drenched in sweat. She hugged her mom from behind to wipe her sweat on her mother's pallu. Realizing her daughter's mischievous behavior, she carried her and gave a quick bath in lukewarm water and dressed her up in silk pattu pavadai.

"Have milk", her mom said softly.

Gulping it down in one sip, Poo showed her milk moustache innocently.

"Ma, how did you celebrate Karthikai Deepam," she questioned all of the sudden.

Her mom thought for a while and replied, "I helped your grandma to lit the lamps and keep them all around the house, burst crackers with my apartment's friends and drink payasam unlimited."

"I want something more interesting ma."

"Poo come here, I will tell you," her grandma called relaxing on the swing placed in the open veranda facing the artificially formed lake consisting of water lotuses, lilies, and golden fishes.

"Go, Amma is calling. Give her the milk and tell her to drink it up fully and then start talking."

"Okay Ma."

"Amma, lay down your legs. I will sleep on your lap," Poo said holding the milk tumbler tight. 

"Sleep child. Tell me something, why do you want to know about your mom's Karthikai Deepam celebration in specific?"

"Amma, we have an oratorical competition happening tomorrow at school. I wish to speak about our festival along with a message in it."

"That's wonderful!"

"Let me tell you it as a story, what you say?"

"Okay, Grandma."

"Once upon a time, there lived a young girl with a beautiful pair of blue eyes. She and her mother lived in a small apartment equal to a matchbox. Though their house was small, it was always filled with laughter and happiness. As TV was a highly expensive device then, the young girl's mother bought her several storybooks and color pencils to spend her time usefully."

"What about the father Amma? Why wasn't he with the young girl?"

Her amma was puzzled to hear such question thrown from her six-year-old granddaughter. She remained silent for a while and then said that the young girl's father was a soldier, and visits them once in a while.

"Months later, on the first day of Karthikai Deepam, her mother receives a huge parcel through courier. To both of them, it was a pleasant surprise. The parcel contained a 21 inch Onida TV with eight buttons on the bottom and an on/off switch placed in the corner. The little girl was overwhelmed and she invited all her apartment friends to see it one by one as she was the first kid to own a color TV."

"Amma, why didn't she watch any cartoons in it?"

"You need to get a cable connection dear to watch programs of your choice."

"Ohhh", Poo sat up on the swing with her legs cross-folded. 

"Amma, did you drink the milk?" 

"Yes dear, I did."

"The next day her mother got the cable connection and the little girl along with her group of friends watched The Care Bears, animated cartoon until dawn. 

Her mother requested all the children to go home and asked her little daughter to lit the lamps as she had planned a surprise waiting to reach her in few minutes. She dressed her up in silk pattu pavadai and plaited her hair differently using many beats and flowers."

"Is it a french plait Amma, which ma has tried on my hair today?"

"Yes dear," she smiled.

"They both lit the lamps and kept it in the entrances of their living area, bedroom, kitchen, staircase and near the tulsi mada."

"How many lamps did they lit up amma?"

"Hundred," her grandma replied.

"As similar to ours", she snapped her fingers with excitement.

"But the little girl had two lamps remaining on her plate.

Hence she asked her mother what to do with it, to which she requested her to keep it where she loves but not below the curtains or near the green plants kept in the balcony as her mother was busy preparing sweets inside the kitchen.

Recollecting the conditions, the little one kept one lamp in the center of the rangoli her mother had drawn and the other one near the TV.

And, then both of them worshiped Goddess Saraswathi and went downstairs to burst the firecrackers.

The dark sky was filled with colors coming out of the crackers and suddenly, the power got shut down but their small apartment glowed as the sparkling fireflies.

The little girl's best friend lit a flower pot and when the flames came down, she saw her father coming towards her wearing a Khaki uniform and leather shoes.

Daddy she shouted and went running to hug him. Her mother who knew about his arrival went behind her to help him carry the luggage.

"Did you like the TV dear," he asked kissing her on the cheeks?

"Its fa-fa-tab-lous,"

"Fantabulous", her mother helped her in pronouncing it correctly. 

"My friends and I watched The Care Bears today", she said.

"Awesome, tell me the story", he said climbing the staircase.

The lamps lit the room and to extend its lifespan, he started pouring oil to the ones which were dimming out. His wife came out of the kitchen carrying a plate full of milk sweets, sakkara pongal and vermicelli payasam for dinner. 

They ate feeding one another teasing profusely.

The power came and the first thing which caught her mother's eyes was the lamp kept near the TV. She hurriedly removed the lamp and saw an oval impression on the bottom.


She called her daughter who was relishing the fourth cup of vermicelli payasam.

"Yes mom, I am here," she said her eyes twinkling with joy.

"What have you done, is this the place to keep a lamp. See the damage you have done." She vented out like Goddess Kali and went near her little daughter to beat her up.

Seeing his wife's tantrums, he carried their little daughter and held her wife's trembling hands. 

"What are you doing, she is our child. Let's explain to her what she has done. How many times I have told you not to raise your voice or hands in front of her", he said softly.

She sat down on the cot angrily.

"Baby, its dangerous to keep the lamp near TV and see the mark you have given to it," he said.

"Mom told to keep where I love daddy", she said holding her tears.

She touched the impression burning her tiny finger. 

"Why are you allowing her to touch", her mother got up immediately to bring the wheat flour from the kitchen.

"Say sorry to mother."

"Mother I am sorry", she said holding her ears.

"I am sorry too", she replied rubbing her fingers with flour.

"So, TV is one of your favourite places, what about the other lamp", her father asked to make her smile.

"It's on the rangoli daddy", she moved her other hand facing outside.

"Amma is the little girl my mom?", Poo asked.

Yes, she said.

How you guessed?"", her grandma exclaimed.

Poo showed the TV kept in the corner of the room with the same impression on it.

"Clever girl!"

The power got cut and Poo's mom warned both of them to sit where ever they are.

In few minutes, her mom came out carrying a plate full of earthen lamps in one hand and snacks on the another.

"Light them Poo, I took them out today as it is the first day of Karthigai deepam," she said drinking payasam.

Her amma got up from the swing to keep the lamps in all corners, meanwhile, Poo's mother lit few lamps and made them float on the pond.

"So did you get the story?" her mom asked, her blue eyes twinkling in night.


"What is the story about?"

"The story of a young girl with a pair of blue eyes lighting a lamp near the TV", she giggled.

"Mother, did you tell her my secrets?"

"Why not, she is my granddaughter," she said walking down the steps. 

The three laughed out loud making the moon feel jealous and the lamps danced in delight to the rhythm of the water.

Like passing the light from one lamp to another, stories of traditions have to be passed from one generation to another. Similarly parenting too! It is a beautiful art. Children not only learn by watching their parents but also by hearing their stories. Hitting the children is wrong and its one way of supporting violence. AVOID IT, nurture your children with life time experiences, invest your time spending with them and never stop them when they ask questions, be it silly or smart. It’s your diya! Give them the glow and all the sparkle they need throughout.

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