It is Diwali today. Even though so many years have gone by, the incident is still fresh in my mind…
Diwali was two days later, but the noise of crackers had already started. I hated Diwali just because of this noise! I was so afraid of the deafening noise of Sutli bombs and other types of firecrackers that my granny would stuff cotton in my ears and put me to sleep.
It was the morning of Diwali. My mother and granny were busy preparing for Laxmi puja in the evening. I was playing with Usha Didi. Ten-year-old Usha Didi always behaved like a guardian and protector of her baby sister. Didi asked while playing with my long plait, “Why are you afraid of the noise? You never join in when Sonu, Lata, and I burst crackers! Tonight, you should come with us. We will all enjoy.” “But Didi, what if the loud noise enters my ears or the sparks from an Anar enter my eyes?”, I enquired innocently. “Why are you worried? Your Didi will be there, she won’t let anything harm you. Come with us in the evening, we will have lots of fun.”
That evening, I joined Didi and her friends. I realised that bursting noiseless crackers was fun. All the children were in the backyard of the house enjoying lighting phuljhadis, and in the adjoining room my father was laughing with his friends over a joke. Mother and granny were busy serving them delicacies. Loud music was playing nearby. I was swaying a phuljhadi like a warrior moving my head.Suddenly, my long plait caught fire from the nearby diya. All of us started screaming, but none of the adults heard us. I started crying and yelling for my mother. Using her presence of mind, Didi snatched the bucket of water next to the plants and put out the fire. She took me in her arms and consoled me, “Stop crying, I told you, I won’t let anything harm you.”
We ran into the house and narrated the incident to everyone. Impressed, they praised Didi, but warned us that we should not burst crackers in their absence.
After that incident, not only did I start enjoying crackers, but also trusting my Didi on all matters, whether it was Mathematics problems, Shakespeare homework, fights with friends or later, boyfriend-related problems. She was always there to help me out, making our sisterly bond stronger and stronger.
I will never forget that incident. Every year on Diwali, it feels as if floodgates of memories open, and this makes me nostalgic. “Mummy, Usha Aunty is online”, my little girl said to me. I rushed to wish ‘Happy Diwali’ to my Didi – my guardian, my friend, my philosopher and my guide. It is said that, “If you carry your childhood with you, you never get older.” That is true indeed – for my Usha didi, I will always be her baby sister.