Friday, October 20, 2017

Anna's Story of Deepawali

Anna on one of the days when he is zoned out!
My dilemma over whether or not to burn crackers was easily solved. Anna was so zoned-out on 18th and 19th Oct that there were no patakas (fireworks), or for that matter, mithai (Indian sweets), or lighting diyas (lamps), or just about anything that needed the tiniest of movements or use of brain cells. Quite a dampener!


Amma's brass pooja diyas, were lit on all auspicious occasions
Many years ago, I had asked Anna why South Indians celebrated Deepawali a day earlier. He promptly told me to ask Amma, deflecting yet another question he didn't want to answer or did not know the answer to. Over the years, I have asked Anna this question in the days running up to Deepawali. One year I came up with the hypothesis that Lord Rama reached South India before North India when he flew from Lanka, and hence Deepawali was celebrated a day earlier than in the north! This story amused Anna no end!! 


Almost every year, I ask Anna the same question and when I don't get a response, I retell my hypothesis on how Rama reached South India before the north, much to his amusement.

Last year, after possibly 40 years, he tells me why.

An effigy of Narakasura. Picture by Gouthami

Anna: Deepawali is on Narakasura Chatrurdasi. The day Krishna and Satyabhama, in a joint venture, defeated the demon Narakasura and released 16,000 women Narakasura 
kept in captivity.
  

Really? Krishna and Satyabhama in a joint venture?? I didn't know.

Anna: Vishnu is more revered in South India than Rama. 

I am confused. I thought that Lord Rama was an avatar of Lord Vishnu. But I keep quiet, 'coz I want to hear the rest of the story.

Anna: Rama is seen as human, with many human faults and needs.

Pause.

Anna: You will like this story. It is about female strength.

Pause.

Oddly, most images I find online show Krishna
killing Narakasura,
when according to most stories I read,
 it was Satyabhama who killed Narakasura. Gender bias? 
Anna: Actually, it was Satyabhama who killed Narakasura. Krishna fainted after being hit by Narakasura's weapon 'Shakti'. Satyabhama was so shocked seeing Krishna fall, that she flung her weapon with immense strength, killing Narakasura.

Pause.

Anna: Narakasura while asking to be forgiven for his wayward ways, asked that his death be celebrated by lighting diyas.

I remember this story, as I sadly watch Anna sleep past his favorite festival. 

Today he is a little awake, so we celebrate by lighting diyas and eating mithai. 

Me: Anna, do you remember that yesterday was Deepawali? Pause. We did not burn any crackers yesterday, as you were asleep.
Anna: We can do it now.

Me ( pointing to the TV that is reporting unprecedented pollution levels across the country): Anna, it is way too polluted! Lets wait till the pollution levels are better. Which basically means, never!

Anna: That will be better. Any day you think is right, we will celebrate Deepawali.

He twitches out a smile and closes his eyes.