From darkness to light

From darkness to light

SHORT STORY

“Deepavali is my most favourite festival! I have already bought new clothes, but I have yet to buy crackers!”

 “My mother prepares so many kinds of sweets during Diwali!”  

The children chattered on even as their favourite teacher, Radha, entered the classroom.  Deepavali, the festival of lights, was fast approaching.

“I know you are excited about Deepavali,” said Radha. “But do you know the significance of the festival?”

“I know, teacher!” offered Vinay. “Krishna killed the demon, Narakasura, on this day.”

 “Yes,” said Radha. “Deepavali falls on Chaturdashi, and so it is celebrated as Naraka Chaturdashi.”

“But Ma’am, I have heard that it was on this day that Rama returned to Ayodhya along with Seetha and Lakshmana, after 14 years of exile and after killing Ravana,” said Ravi.

“Indeed,” said the teacher. “The people of Ayodhya lit lots of earthenware lamps in rows to welcome them. That is how the tradition of lighting lamps has come into practice during Diwali.”

“Ma’am, my grandmother says that it was on Kartika Amavasya that Lakshmi emerged from Kshira Sagar or the ocean of milk, during Samudra Manthan or the churning of the ocean, and brought wealth and prosperity to the people. That is why we, in north India, perform Lakshmi puja during Diwali,” said Nikhil.

“My grandmother told me that the Pandavas returned home on  Kartika Amavasya from their exile of 12 years after defeating the Kauravas in the Kurukshetra war.  And on  Kartika Padya day,  Vishnu in his Vamana avatara, became victorious by pushing the demon-king Bali to ‘patala’,” said Vivek.

“You know all the  stories, don’t you? But do you notice anything special — something which is common to all the stories?” asked Radha.
  
A hush descended on the room.

“Don’t you think that the message is the same in all these stories? The message is about the triumph of good over evil!”

 “Yes, Ma’am!”

 “But you know, Ma’am,” said Neeta. “My friend lost his eyesight when a flower pot burst and injured his eyes during Deepavali last year!”

“What a tragedy!” exclaimed Roopa.

 “My aunt starts wheezing due to cracker fumes. So she closes all the windows of her room and stays indoors during Diwali,” Shalini said.

“Ma’am, my dog Vicky is so scared of noisy crackers  that he goes and hides behind the gas cylinder in  the kitchen,” said Rakesh.

Everybody seemed to have an unpleasant incident to narrate.

Radha said, “I am sure you all have a lot of fun during Deepavali, but if you are not careful,  you could suffer tragic consequences. Did you know that many small children, who can’t afford to attend school, are made to work in cracker-manufacturing factories?

They have to handle chemicals which can be very harmful to their health. Many children have lost their lives too because of accidents in fireworks factories. It is a pity that we enjoy bursting crackers, but never think of these children.

“Bursting crackers pollutes the already polluted environment, causing trauma to people who have respiratory problems. The elderly, the ill and infants suffer because of the fumes and the noise. Enjoyment without concern for others is not a good thing.

“So how about lighting a lot of lamps instead of bursting crackers? Why don’t you share the happiness of the festival with those less fortunate than yourselves by sharing sweets and fruits with them? You could ask your parents to donate some money for their education. Don’t you think that this will actually be the victory of good over evil?” Radha said.

 “Yes Ma’am,” chorused the class. Radha smiled, and took out her purse to make the first contribution.

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