KARACHI: Late on Thursday evening when the intensity of fireworks and firecrackers increased at the Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, all firecrackers, sparklers, fountain of fireworks and rockets were completely sold out. Only one sad diya-seller was still around hoping to sell some of his little clay lamps.
“It’s all about noise and colour now and thanks to China we have this spectacular display of fireworks,” he told Dawn. “No one seems to want my clay lamps anymore,” he said while carefully packing them up in sugar sacks.
Schoolteacher Arjun Shyamji enjoying the festivities sitting on a takht with his friend gestured upwards where explosions of green, red, white, blue and yellow every other minute would change the colour of the sky. “It was my holiday today so I’m relaxing watching the kids have fun,” the gentleman said.
Next to him sat his friend Pardeep Gopal, who said he still had to go to work as he worked for K-Electric, which has everything to do with light.
Thanks to the Sindh education department’s notification, Shiv Kartar Lal, a class six student of St Michael’s School, also had a holiday. “But I went to school anyway,” he said.
“My son is a very studious child. He was worried that he would miss some lessons as the school was open for the other students, so he attended,” his father said.
Besides the fireworks the explosions made everyone jump every now and then. Some naughty children deliberately set off the crackers next to the feet of some people they wanted to have fun with and laughed their hearts out as they jumped, gave a little dance and ran away. When asked if anyone had ever been injured here during Diwali, Shyamji shook his head and said: “No, the lord has been kind. He looks after us and lets the children have fun. Otherwise everyone would be afraid and holding back the fervour.”
About the fireworks in the sky, he said that they were very expensive as they were imported from China but it was Diwali and youngsters didn’t mind spending anyway. “They cost from Rs1,500 to Rs2,500 and even more. But if you can’t afford them, you can always spend Rs50 to Rs80 on a box of sparklers. One box has a dozen,” he said. “Everyone can buy them of course, which is why there is nothing of the sort available at this time.”
The fireworks and explosions increase after 10.30pm when everyone was through with pooja. Three-year-old Dashna wasn’t feeling safe or happy enough in her father’s arms, her little hands covering her ears at the sound of every cracker going off, her cheeks wet with tears. “It’s also past her bedtime so she’s like this now. Just let her grow up a little, I’m sure she’ll be playing with fireworks just like the others here in a few years,” her father said smilingly.
Meanwhile, the vendors lining the temple enclosure had other things on offer such as food items, a special sweetmeat made from cow’s milk, posters of deities, coloured bindi, glass bangles, artificial nails, etc. “Diwali is not just about fireworks, it is like a combination of your Shab-i-Barat and Eid. We also buy new clothes and things,” said Chandra Wati while trying on new bangles.
“Shri Swaminarayan Mandir also has a gurdwara and both Hindu and Sikh devotees come here. The area surrounding it is a Hindu neighbourhood but not all the people here today are from this neighbourhood. Hindu devotees from all over the city and even outside Karachi come here for the festivals as they also know that they will find others celebrating the same festival with the same enthusiasm as they here with them,” said Aanchal Devi, who said she was there from Hyderabad.
Published in Dawn, October 24th, 2014