Deepavali, 2006

The sound of exploding crackers is incessant. Wealthier people are igniting chains of ‘bombs’ that go on forever, like batteries of machine-guns firing endless rounds of ammunition. ‘Sparklers’ and ‘rockets’ are of new kinds this year. Rockets shoot up to a great height, abruptly slow and trace a snake-like coiling path in the black sky. Then they stop, explode, and rain down slowly—big bright multicolored drops gently scattered by cool October breeze. ‘Flower-pots’ throw up fountains of sparklers which are higher, much wider, and brilliant than before. Thin silvery shimmering lines intersperse the height of white and golden fountains.

All this week, sweets given by friends were generous in quantity and rich in variety. Symbols of hope have transformed to celebrations of achievement. So many people have moved into the middle-class; the wealth of the rich has expanded vastly and fast. This Deepavali—our festival of prosperity—a large Indian population is resoundingly announcing the arrival of great wealth. I see from my balcony, a hundred meters beyond the trees, now at night, an impossibly thick cloud of smoke lit by amber electric-lights, rolling slowly and expansively to the sky. The billows are multiplying at the base and widening. The smoke will rise all night, it appears to me.