Making my way through a big, heavily coloured street illuminated with lamps and loads of Diwali decoration, I zeroed in on a shop. Amidst high decibel sounds, I tried to attract the owner’s attention towards my object of desire — a colourful and attractive set of diyas. After a sweating effort, I met with success. He released his well-rehearsed breathless words, appreciating the pieces displayed. I allowed him to finish, but pointed towards my already choiced pack of diyas. “Rs 250 a pack of two, madam,” he said and continued with his pit patted poetic version, but with a different touch, matching the customer in question. Without initiating any bargain attempt, I sealed the deal at the price announced. He packed it well and handed it over.
Floating with the crowd, I desperately prayed to reach the exit. Passing through so, I glimpsed an old feeble creature, who was attempting her best for her sales call to be heard. I could see a display of plain mud, but beautifully shaped, diyas on a jute cloth in front of her. But the punching mad rush, passed me off her as if unseen.
The next afternoon, my friend was at my doorstep, and completely ignoring my lack of desire, pulled me through the same lane again. This time, we succeeded in winding up earlier than the previous day and took to our route back home. But my feet paused to something that I felt was very recently acquainted by me. This time, the voice was audible enough to pay heed. I reached out. Happy but apprehensive, she said, “Tai, they will cost you only Rs 10 for a pack of two.”
My friend tried to pull me out. Grasping our gesture to leave, she pleaded, “Tai, my only son committed suicide a month back. He lost all his crop to the drought this year. He had taken a loan of Rs 50,000. A firm believer in nature and agriculture, he used all our savings too for the same. But god had a different plan for him.” Tears clouded her sunken eyes. I could see her trembling hands displaying green nerves and weak bones. She continued, “I have two grandchildren and a daughter-in-law who is eight months pregnant to look after. If I am able to sell five to six packs today, they will not sleep empty stomach. I want to keep my son’s dream alive through his children.”
Shaken by her words, I handed over a 500-rupee note to her. With trembling words she said, “Tai I don’t have products worth Rs 500 to sell, nor can I give you change.”
“I need just two packs, you keep the change,” I told her. To which, this time holding her tears back firmly, she said, “The diyas you want are worth Rs 20, tai. I cannot take anything more and I also do not have the change.”
The market buzzed with brightness and glitter, and expensive exchanges. In the same premises, an old lady was trying to fetch food for the day for a family of four without compromising on her values and ethics. I didn’t want to give up on the bargain this time and collected the pack of two and pushed the Rs 500 note below her mat and rushed off the scene.
The incident set me thinking. We, as a society, have come a long way in thought and action. The change in the last few years — a decade moreover — has been very brisk, almost galloping in its speed. In our attempt to adjust to its speed, we have conveniently turned a blind eye to certain realities which are colourless but carry a huge weight towards our existence and things around.
Yes, colours are beautiful to eyes, they add value, but they are just an addition to something which is real and has come with great effort. They have a value because of something below and behind them. The colourlessness gives colours their beauty.
The woman made me aware that man may have reached the moon, but still there is no cosmetology which would permanently wipe off the deep rooted lines on those dejected faces. There is no umbrella made that can provide an automatic and permanent shade to the homeless families, no specially equipped eye glasses to stop their tears, no pharma product that can control the hunger pangs.
But in our small way, we can try to make a difference. I did. So this Diwali, the colourless mud diyas will lead the multi-coloured ones, outside my house. Alongside each other, they will look beautiful and complete.