The country celebrates Deepavali (Diwali) on November 7, this year. As we light hundreds of little lamps around our homes this Diwali, let us also think of the little ways of bringing sunshine and hope in the lives of people around us.
Many of our festivals are celebrations, directly or indirectly, of the victory of good over evil. This is all the more true of Diwali, with its rich symbolism of light overcoming darkness. In a very special way, Diwali reminds us, every year, of the beautiful Bible dictum, “Let Your Light Shine”!
Very few know that this verse is part of the famous Sermon on the Mount in the Bible. The full text reads somewhat like this: “You are the Light of the World… No one lights a lamp and puts it under a bowl; rather he puts it on a lamp stand, where it gives light to everyone. So also your light must shine before the people, that seeing the good works you do, they will praise God, your Father.” (Matthew 5:14-16). To be compared to light, with all its unique attributes, is one of the greatest compliments we humans can ever receive; and that too from Jesus, who is not known to flatter anyone. He meant it, and that’s what we are.
Light by nature spreads brightness; it banishes darkness, does not add to existing darkness. Light also brings warmth, joy and in many cases, it is known to heal as well… maybe we could go on enumerating many more of its qualities. But I think it suffices to say that light makes life on earth ever beautiful!
A few years ago, I received from the author himself a copy of a book of six playlets in Hindi — Lal Gali Ka Phool by Philip Muthukulam. It’s the young author’s maiden attempt in Hindi, and I was quite impressed particularly by the first play Lal Gali Ka Phool. The story really touched me.
The short play is built around two young people — Kailash (a young business representative) and Mina (who was forced into prostitution). On a business trip, Kailash has to spend the night at a city hotel, and before he retires, the waiter turns up to inform Kailash about Mina! The young man first hesitates… but after a second thought he tells the waiter to let Mina in!
In Kailash, Mina finds a different ‘client’ that night! Instead of taking advantage of her, Kailash makes Mina feel at home as a ‘sister’… takes interest in her story… tries to understand her rather than blame her… then reads a verse from the scripture… light shines in Mina’s life once again, after years, and she comes out of Kailash’s room as a transformed person! I have not come across another example, in the recent past, which so beautifully illustrates the above verse: Let Your Light Shine! Young Kailash bringing sunshine, healing, warmth and happiness into Mina’s life.
Here’s the story of a sage whose disciples came to him complaining about the prevalence of evil in the world. Wanting to drive out the forces of darkness and evil, they asked him for his advice.
The sage took them to a dark dungeon. Giving each one of them a broom, he asked them to sweep the darkness away. They readily did what the sage asked them to do. But nothing really happened! The darkness did not go away. He gave them sticks now, in order to beat the darkness out. The disciples started beating around with the sticks they were provided with. Hardly anything happened except that a couple of them got hurt in the exercise! The sage had yet another suggestion, that they now shout aloud asking the darkness to get out. The louder they shouted, the wearier they grew and nothing else happened!
Finally he said, “My boys, there’s only one way that we can meet the challenge of darkness — let each one of you light a candle.” The disciples now lit their candles and to their surprise, they found that the darkness had already vanished.
There’s so much good to be done, so much of love and sunshine to be brought into the lives of other people, and so much evil to be overcome. Thousands of little lamps are lit in and around our homes during the Diwali season, symbolizing the victory of good over evil. Let the beautiful festival of our country come as a constant reminder to each one of us of the truth that no amount of lofty speeches, slogan shouting or violence, can rid the country of corruption, communalism, and other social evils that are so prevalent in our country. It calls for positive acts of goodness, kindness and selfless dedication to the cause of our people. Happy Diwali!