A Diwali Story

It was a thousand watt nightmare. A family holiday that couldn’t have been more perfect had spiralled out of control and we had less than fifteen minutes to redeem it.

We were travelling from Bangalore to Coorg in the south of India, and had stopped over for just one evening at the halfway point, the city of Mysore. Mysore is most known for the Mysore Palace, a thing of beauty that has been serving as the seat of the royal family since the 14th century. The palace is lit up every evening for less than an hour, so obviously, we had to go see it.

With two hours to spare and a long journey behind us, my brother and I decided to go to the hotel’s gym to open up those stiff muscles. And what’s a five-star hotel stay without a trip to the steam or sauna at the very least?

But the side-effect of a relaxing steam bath (and a late check-in) is that it makes you forget your room number.

Long story short, the next situation my brother and I found ourselves in was face-to-face with our fuming mom, who had been the most excited among us to witness the palace lit-up. And ‘fuming’ is a gross understatement. She was LIVID at our irresponsibility and complete lack of sensitivity to her desires. With barely thirty minutes for the palace lights to go out, we made a mad dash in complete, uncomfortable silence, winding through the city at top speed in peak hour traffic.

We reached the palace gates with a few minutes to spare. Ignoring each other, we went through the gates and found ourselves in a massive plaza, which was surrounded on all four sides by a spectacular edifice resplendent in thousands of illuminated bulbs.

We had managed to reach Mysore Palace just in time. But at what cost?

It didn’t matter, because the experience of the place forbade any emotion but awe. We were surrounded by a man-made wonder and as we walked through it, occasionally rotating in our spots to take in the entire scene, all feelings of anger, disappointment, guilt and shame melted away.

There was a delay that evening in turning off the lights, so we got a full thirty minutes in the plaza surrounded by people, photographers and a police band that chose those opportune moments to do a series of performances for the visitors.

The lights did eventually go out, but our moods remained aglow.

I guess why this story matters today, on Diwali - the Indian festival of lights - is not because it marks a celebration of good over evil, or light over darkness. Rather, the strongest association we all have with Diwali is of being close to our loved ones and of showing our gratitude to every meaningful relationship we have cultivated over the years.

Go now. Light up the day of someone you love. Happy Diwali.

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