It was Diwali night. However, I wasn’t happy.
The tiny mandir room felt stuffy in the sweltering heat. A table fan was whirling in the corner but provided no relief. Dadi sat cross legged on a mat preparing for the Laxmi puja. She was meticulously adorning the god statues in red fabric. The clay diyas had been filled with oil, right to the brim, ready to be lit. A large plate of yellow pedas with pista flakes were set on a small wooden stool by her side.
I sat down next to her dressed in my new ghagra, shinny pink with yellow paisleys.
“You look beautiful” Dadi said with a smile.
“I hate these clothes. They itch” I replied with a frown.
“Smile beta, its diwali night.”
“I want a peda. I am hungry”
“After the puja beta. The gods need to eat first”
“But I am hungry. I want a peda now”
“Why don’t you help me. Put this beteal leaf and nut on each book”
She put some green leaves wrapped in newspaper in my hand. I held them listlessly and then started blankly at the doorway. I was waiting for her, wondering when she would come.
But Amma didn’t come. She was busy in the other room with my little brother. Now days she is always busy. Busy in feeding him, busy in bathing him, busy in making him sleep, busy in changing his diapers. Always busy.
Dadi would dress me. Pappa would drop me to school. Dadi would keep my glass of milk ready after school. Amma however would always attend to him first. He would cry and she would scoop him up. She would hug him and fuss over him day and night.
I looked at Dadi. She was precariously placing orange and yellow marigold flowers next to each idol. There was a dull ache in my chest. Hot tears flowed down from my eyes. Without thinking I stood up, grabbed a statue and smashed it on the floor.
“Now can I eat a peda” I shouted.
The bursting of a firecracker woke me up. The room was dark except for the bulb of an old table lamp in the corner. The pillow cover felt wet. Now I remember, I had run into the room crying and flung myself on the bed.
Suddenly, I felt a hand caressing my hair. The hand felt warm and comforting. The jingle of the bangles made me realize it was her. She must have been sitting here a long time, not knowing when I would wake up.
“I made sure no one ate any pedas. I have them all here for you” she said softly.
I jumped up and hugged her, burying my face in her chest, while continuing to cry incessantly.
“I am sorry beta” she sobbed and held me tightly.
However, she didn’t have to say anything. Now I knew Amma will always love me.