The lamp lighter

The lamp lighter

 Everybody was busy with the oncoming festival – everybody except Naman. His mother was adding finishing touches to the cleaning of the house. She had ensured that every nook and corner was spic and span. He knew the reason for this – his Daadi had told him that Lakshmi the goddess of wealth entered only houses that were clean. Naman’s sister was in charge of the festive décor – flowers, Rangoli, lanterns, serial bulbs and the placements of lamps. His aunt was in charge of making and packing of sweets. His uncle was responsible for all the purchases for the festival.

His father was spared of duties at home as he had all these jobs and more, to be taken care of at his office, assisted by the uncle of course. Naman’s 12 year-old cousin was appointed to distribute the packed sweets to the list of names that he was given. His Dada as usual would ration the limited crackers to the different members of the family, supervise the children while they burnt them and ensure their safety. His Daadi spearheaded all the preparations and celebrations and was looking into all the minute details.

Naman felt really sad. He was the only one who was not given any responsibility or job for Diwali, which was only three days away. He was a big boy now – almost nine years old, with so many of his milk teeth already fallen. He wondered why he was being treated like a kid who was not capable of any work.

He decided to have a serious talk with someone about this. First he went to his mother who was in the drawing room, putting up the freshly laundered curtains. “Ma, everybody has been given some task to carry out except me. I too want to contribute my bit in this festival. Please tell me what I can do.”  “Thank you, Baba”, she said. He hated being addressed in this fashion – especially on occasions when his friends were around. It was a tough life to be the youngest in the family – everybody treated him like a baby.

“Right now, you can help me by getting the stool from the backyard and holding it while I put up the curtains. Please hold it tight or I could fall and injure myself. “His aunt who was in the same room added, “Naman, beta you should help me by tasting the sweets and cutting the cellotape while I pack them.” Their suppressed smiles irritated him no end, “NO!” he shouted.  “I don’t want to just help in whatever you are doing. I want to do some major work all by myself, like all of you are doing. I’m not a child anymore – I’m a big boy.”

His voice trailed behind him as he stomped towards his room and was muffled when he shut the door. His mother and aunt had a strange expression of amusement and shock on their faces.

That night after dinner, Daadi asked everyone to assemble in the drawing room. She asked for the TV to be switched off. Everybody became alert knowing that such situations called for family discussions on serious matters.

“I’m glad all the preparations are being carried out by all of you as expected”, she said. However, one most important thing was overlooked and I missed commissioning to one of you. From tomorrow – 2 days prior to Diwali, we start lighting the lamps. Every evening for five days, the lamps have to be lit constantly and continuously for about 3 hours.

Since everybody else has already got a job to take care of, I’ve decided to give this work to Naman.” Naman couldn’t believe his ears. Daadi addressed him, “You have to see to it that no diya is without oil – please keep checking and refilling them, before the oil is spent. You will be in charge of the wicks too. And, more importantly, the 2 big silver lamps in the Puja room have to be filled with ghee and not oil, and kept burning throughout the day and your waking hours, understood?” Naman accepted with an emphatic loud “Yes”.
After everybody else had left the room, Daadi called Naman and said, ‘Listen Sonny, Diwali is the festival of lights and so your job is of utmost importance. I used to do this job till last year but my old bones will make it very painful for me to do it now. We don’t want to leave any lamp unlit and make Lakshmi feel unwelcome, do we? I’m sure you’ll do a very fine job.” Naman nodded his little head vigorously and hugged his grandmother in gratitude. The ever-shining lamps of Diwali were no match for the twinkle in Naman’s eyes throughout the festivities and he knew for sure that he was as good as any grown up, indeed!

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