Lucknow, 9:00 am: Its that ever fresh winter morning here. But somehow, i sense a difference. I think its in the sounds. They remind me: this year, diwali is over.
Khashhh Khassshhh Khashhh ….
The musical difference lies in the Big Brooms. Melodiously clearing the roads, of the remains of the night.
In the swing and the sound, flash the images of a family who handcrafted the #DiyasForMyDiwali.
On the outskirts of Lucknow, i am walking through the haat, bazaar. Its busy, its crowded. Its bursting at the seams. There are all kinds of sensations.
Loud honks merging with temple bells. Bright colours dancing with the sharp glares of vehicles. Voices, singing. Some calling out to the customers. Others abusing the traffic.
I am melting into the ever paradoxical nature of the motherland. A smile, is very naturally, is spreading across my face, into my eyes.
I am feeling, #home.
Just then, my eyes get drawn towards a sweet smiling face of a young girl. There is a lyrical quality in her, that i instantly know comes from a life, not urban.
Her shop, like the haat, is mobile.
On the sides of the busy bazaar road, a cloth is spread, a little rack is put, wares are placed. And lo! Shopping time.
When the wares are sold, cloth is picked, remaining stuff collected. And lo! Back to being a road again!
My new friend, Nisha, is a part of this eternal #Mela of India. The coming, the going. In between the delighting. Thats us.
Nisha is selling mitti ke kholne, diyas. The stuff i have been looking for. The stuff flooding the haat.
Nisha’s mom, noticing my quizzical expression, giggles and offers me an explanation, “The trader and the farmer both need each other! That is why they are here together.”
Instantly i know. I have found me a teacher.
Rabiya Bano is from a village about 70 kms from Lucknow. The village has a fascinating name: #BawanBuzurgBalla (बावन बुज़ुर्ग वाला), ‘The one with 52 Wise Elders’.
Bawan Buzurg Balla is close to Maharaj Ganj, which is close to Rai Bareilly, which is close to where i am right now, Lucknow.
Many folks like Rabiya from villages within a radius of around 200–250 kilometers come to such mobile haats in Lucknow. Carrying with them not just food and wares, but also stories and teachings.
Rabiya tells me she belongs to a बिरादरी hmm, lets say a jaati or a tribe of people, called #Kasghar. Many of you may not heard of them. They were one time, one of the nearly 825 sub-divisional specialisations of the #Potters of this region, #Kumhars. Savour this.
Chak-bhai: folks of the chaak, the wheel.
Gadhere: who carry their clay on gadhas, mules.
Gola: who make round-round vessels.
Mathuriya: the ones from Mathura
Suariya: who keep pigs
Churiya: their women wear bangles, instead of traditional metal bracelet, maathi.
Hatheliya: identified with the handle of the chaak, used to turn the wheel.
Parodiya: moulders of toys
Purabiya: folks from the east
Pahariya: from the hills
Tikuliya: who make maang tikas, tikuli for women.
And then finally, Rabiya Bano’s biradari, #Kasghars. They are the folks who specialise in making water goblets (suraahi or kas) cups, plates, tobacco pipes (chilams). They belong to one of the fifty odd sub-specialisations of the Muslim Potters of this very region!
Talk about diversity, you are talking specialisation. Talk about specialisation, you are talking excellence!
I pick up some Diyas. I pick up Ganesh-Laxmi. And suddenly, it strikes me.
In this bubbling cauldron of enigma that is India, i am holding in my hand yet another supremely delicious paradox.
From #one angle: these images of the deities, have been soulfully moulded in the chaak, the aanwan of a person whose faith-books have no space for idols.
And from #another angle: these very idols, made in the wheels of a potter from another faith, are being worshipped — knowlingly, mind you — by people many of who would perhaps never eat in the same plate with them!
Its beautiful. And its magical.
First. How every living faith of spirit, of soul, of God … takes the colour of the soil, the mud of the land it grows in. If faith is alive. Then, this.
In desert, be the desert: conserve. In river, be the river: flow, flow free.
And India is not a desert. It is a riverine civilisation. People close to the ground — not their so-called leaders, or opinion makers — #people, living the diverse faiths India has embraced, know that. They know the art of flowing. With, not against.
Second. Very deeply, as Hindus. We know. There are many paths to Truth. Just as there are many rivers flowing to the sea. Yours path, is yours, not mine. But for you, it is as valid as mine is for me.
There is a deep acceptance of all that IS. Of likes and of dislikes.
What appears as hate of the other, one moment. Can change the very next moment to great appreciation for the other!
Its so subtle, so nuanced. That … till you have lived it, its difficult, nay impossible, to explain.
Close to the mud — and who better than our #kumhars to understand that — all is One.
And right under those beautiful earthen lamps they make? The ones radiating so much light?
Right under them … there is darkness.
In the light, the energy. In the darkness, the rest.
This is the paradox, the enigma that is our motherland. The light and the darkness. To her, pranam!
#HappyDiwali, yet again. A Diwali which celebrates the Light, even as it embraces the Darkness.