The Silence after Diwali

It is that time of the year again that she longs and awaits all the yearlong. The preparations for Diwali at her house in the mountains had started weeks before the festival. The house cleaned umpteen times, every corner, all the bedrooms which wait for their occupants to come each year are cleaned, new bed sheets laid. She makes sure to remember that her son does not like loud colored bed sheets while her daughter loves bright colors. Her five grandchildren would come too; preparations are in full swing to get all the sweets ready that they would gorge. The preparations keep her busy for weeks, while her husband continues with their banal routine of taking a walk, meeting friends over coffee and cards, she prefers to stay back to make the preparations. At times the neighbors get tensed when she is not seen for days together. She smiles jovially when they inquire and replies that she awaits her family for Diwali, that she is keeping busy.

And they all reach a day before Diwali; she has been awake from four in the morning unable to sleep, unable to conceal her excitement. As the taxi stops and she hears sound of luggage being unloaded she cannot contain her excitement and runs for the door. There they are, all of them. They look tired from the journey. As the hug and meet she grasps hard to her grand-children, of course it has been a year. They enter and are served fresh juice that she has prepared. Suddenly the house is beaming with happiness and noise, with children running, and her son, daughter-in-law, daughter, son-in-law chatting with her husband; she excuses herself to the kitchen. There is still a lot that needs to be done, she starts preparing snacks and lunch for all.
The all retire to sleep, but she can hardly get any. She goes to the room where her grandchildren are playing; she talks to them hearing stories of their friends and schools. Time passes and its tea time, the family gathers again for delicacies she has prepared. Everyone praises her preparations. She is content as the family takes mouthful of the delicacies she has taken weeks to prepare. The day of Diwali comes and the whole day passes in the preparations. The night falls and the lights come up. After the puja the family gathers for cards and crackers. The noise of laughter and crackers fills the air and she thanks god in between her prayers, in between her happiness, in between the noise for days like these. The night ends and all leave for their rooms. She busies herself in cleaning the house. She knows she cannot sleep today, they leave tomorrow and this saddens her. She feels the clock would simply stop ticking right now. As she reclines to sleep she finds her husband snoring. She closes her eyes and sleep engulfs her.

The next morning when she wakes up everyone is ready to leave. They have a train to catch. She offers to make breakfast but they insist they would get late. She sees them loading their baggage in the taxi, hugs and bids them goodbye fighting back tears in her eyes. They promise to come back for next Diwali, earlier if they can. She nods and smiles.

She goes back to the house when they leave and suddenly the silence seems deafening. The whole chaos around Diwali is over, she goes to the window where she can look at people going to the market, there are few who look tired and lost. The streets are empty; the hustle of Diwali, the urgency of Diwali has dwindled, the market street is empty. Children are trying to find crackers from the garbage bin, sweepers trying to clean the mess created from last night cracker menace, there are no cars on the roads, most of the people are carrying luggage to the station as they need to resume work.

She returns to the kitchen to prepare tea, as she puts up the kettle to boil, she goes to the table set the cups and there she finds a note, “Thank you ma for a wonderful Diwali, coming back next year for more”. She lets a sigh and waits for Diwali next year.

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