The only familiarity I can claim with the Indian holiday of Diwali is what I learned from that episode of The Office, wherein Michael Scott mistakes it to be the Hindu equivalent of Halloween.
Now that I have been in India for Diwali I can tell you that it is nothing like Halloween. In fact, I know no western holiday by which to compare it. Diwali has many facets, but I’m told that the most important part is celebrating light overcoming darkness. This victory is not just symbolic, because according to Hindu tradition, Diwali celebrates Krishna’s victory over Narakasura, who was some kind of evil god or demon.
We have been trying to get to bed early here, but we were unable to ignore the fireworks and parades passing just outside, so we sauntered out to see what all the fuss was about.
Outside all the households were candles, and with the aid of fireworks and sparklers, the night felt as bright as mid-day. Making its slow way down the street was some kind of beautiful flower arrangement being carried on a stretcher by four men. Leading the whole procession was a troop of at least ten drummers, accompanied by some guys who were playing horns that looked like something out of a fantasy novel. The horns wrapped around the bodies of the players like thin snakes; the bell of the instrument was small and gaped high above the parade.
I asked a guy next to me what the flower arrangement was, but I couldn’t hear his reply over the drums, horns, and fireworks. Whatever it was it moved at a glacial pace. Some poor truck driver got stuck behind it, and judging by his expression when he passed me, his enthusiasm for Diwali was damn near gone.
It stopped every ten feet or so, and every time it stopped someone would adjust the flowers and pray. It seemed like it would never pass us by, but then there it was, lurching away, leaving me in the kind of stupor I feel after waking from a dream.