Unlearning The Learnt

Diwali Amid Pandemic Pause

Published in The Asian Weekly, Diwali Edition

UNLEARNING THE LEARNT: Diwali amid Pandemic Pause

By Monica Gokaldas

Diwali is well known as a festival of lights, implying the primary celebration of the festival is done with lights. Various beliefs, historical evidences, religious significances all point towards Diwali also being called Deepawali meaning “a sequence of lamps”. Over the years, our elders had a particular significance attached to Diwali whereby they laid emphasis on cleanliness, dispelling darkness and welcoming brightness thus the symbolic lighting of lamps. Gradually the focus has been shifted towards Bollywood and corporate inspired luxurious celebrations and people trying to outdo each other when it comes to throwing parties, giving gifts and sweets.

Amid the current situation where our thoughts are haunted by the Covid 19 fear and suffering as we struggle to liberate ourselves from the grip of this virus any celebration seems to be fake reality. It appears very insensitive when one is willing to celebrate jovially with a lavish display of festivity while others around are suffering, unwell or mourning their losses of sorts caused by the virus. It is a very tricky “ Pandemic Pause” that has forced a lot to be put on hold for our own safety but if we reflect upon the situation, whatever is on hold, is that, which is not a necessity.

Diwali shall still be celebrated in its religious significance minus the “Bollywood effects” if I may call it so. The prayers can be conducted within the family surroundings and business establishments and lamps are lit the way they are meant to be. What must go down is that, that is not of utmost sanctity like having Diwali parties, bursting fireworks, lavish decorations, extravagant gift giving and receiving. In my opinion, if one must give gifts, there are and there shall be several occasions to do so, but, in the present situation where some have lost their jobs, some businesses are suffering and undergoing a financial crunch it is good to abstain from such extravagance or else help someone in need.

    This Pandemic has taught us important lessons of “unlearning the learnt” and to re-learn the true nature of things handed down by the ancients.

 Let us unlearn that prayer can be only done in the temples and learn that prayers can be done within the folds of your heart.

Let us unlearn that a festival must be celebrated in a crowd or a gathering and learn that it can be celebrated by being with one’s family and caring for them.

Let us unlearn that Diwali is buying expensive clothes and jewelry and learn that a festival can be marked with simplicity.

Let us unlearn that Diwali is to do with our social status and learn that it is to do with our religious background and basics passed on to us.

Let us unlearn that Diwali is celebrated by fireworks and gift giving and learn that it is celebrated by lighting the lamp of wisdom within ourselves and give mutual respect to each other and our elders.

Let us unlearn that Diwali is complete by having huge austerities and learn to do the few rituals to carry on the traditions with the understanding of significance behind those rituals. Many among us, practice lot of austerities without having understood them, so let us try to learn more about those and not burden ourselves with forced practices.

Let us unlearn to give out Diwali sweets and gifts as a formality and learn to share our sweets out of love with our loved ones and others around us.

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