The Landing Lights of Deepavali

picture of two Deepavali oil lamps, with modern electric lights in the background
So a few thousand years ago a guy and his wife set out for home after fourteen years of exile in the spiffy jungles of peninsular India, and having just rescued his missus from the clutches of a very bad guy with ten heads, he decided that he was totally entitled to the guy’s flying car for the journey home — spoils of war and all that. This being the days before the IATA and GPS, the folks back home tried to make things easier for their returning king (whose slippers were doing a fine job of running the kingdom in his stead, apparently) and lit up the entire city so he could spot them from the air.

Hang on — did Laxman have to walk home?

This is all largely conjecture on my part, of course, but it seems that interpreting Deepavali is the birthright of every Indian, just like Swarajya (or at least that’s what Lokmanya Tilak said. I wish he would have added, ‘…and ice lollies’). Just today I’ve heard that Diwali/Deepavali is apparently about the triumph of good over evil; that the lamps were lit in order to banish roaches and other post-monsoon insects; that Narakasur was killed by either Krishna or Kali depending on who you ask, and that this all actually about communal harmony and free trade.

Funny, I don’t think anybody noticed while they were gorging on their own weight in sweets. A Doordarshan News report on the consummate consumption of sweets enthusiastically begins, “You may be familiar with the feeling of throwing up after gorging on Diwali sweets…”

Ah, DDNews. Crap, but pithy.

I for one am happy with this mega economic downturn. It means that there aren’t as many crackers in the air because nobody has money to burn, and so the air is not full of smoke, and I am not dying of an allergic reaction to it. Yup, I don’t like firecrackers either. Tradition they may be, but wasn’t gunpowder invented by the Chinese?

Oh but that doesn’t matter. Communal Harmony, Good over Evil, Puking sweets etc.

In all of this, the asuras and rakshasas get a bad rap, as far as I’m concerned, their name becoming synonymous with simplistic demons, monsters and bogeymen. Sure, so Ravana enjoyed a bit of a kidnap and hostage taking, but it’s not like he was unprovoked. I mean, they did lop off his sister’s ears and nose, you know. And very little is said of Ravana before his path crossed with Ram. Nobody talks about how Lanka was a perfect city built by the devas — a veritable Atlantis — and that he merrily defeated them and took it over. Nobody talks about his ten-headed super-intelligence — face it, that whole golden deer ruse was, well, gold (but then, in the end he did get done in by a single arrow straight to the chest, so…).

Maybe I’m just an irate South Indian unhappy with these pesky northerners trooping down to our virgin forests, stealing our women (or lopping their ears and noses off) and enfranchising our vanaras and bears. Mostly I’m just sore that Rama, the purshottam, made off with the fancy-pants pushpak-viman and it was never ever heard from again. Maybe when he got back he just left the rule of Ayodhya to the slippers and went off questioning his wife’s purity (what to do — log kya keh rahe hai…).

Because if he had heeded the words of our illustrious politicians on this day he would know that Deepavali is about communal harmony and freedom, and that means only one thing: mass production! Why, by the time the Mahabharata came around the place should have been full of shiny flying vehicles.

Baby Krishna should have been holding up that mountain on his little finger whilst on his My First Pushpak Viman™.

Bheeshma should have been impaled on a bed of arrows on the side of his flying yacht.

I can see it now: Draupadi! Dushasan! In the air! Infinite chiffon saree unravelling as that crafty Kaurava orbits her on his personal Pushpy GT-R, cackling maniacally.

Of course, there is no evidence that Rama didn’t try to turn the pushpak viman into a mass transport means for the people.

They must have just built the factory in Singur.