For me, Diwali means get together time, where grapevine, proclamations, lamentations and complaints are shared, then gutted out. Topics of discussion vary from family matters, politics, spirituality and current issues.
We used to gorge on chicken curry and mutton curry on Diwali eve when we make food offerings to our progenitors and on Diwali day but in the past 4 years we are observing vegetarianism both on Diwali eve and Diwali day. I have no problem with observing vegetarianism, no matter what reason is behind it, be it spiritual or health consciousness.
The next day after Diwali, we held a dinner party and the food is all out non-vegetarian. This only comes across as hypocrisy to me not to mention arduous as we, ladies are the ones who end up cooking, serving and cleaning. Diwali is for kids and men to enjoy while the ladies bear the onus of endless petty chores.
My only brother met with an accident on 5th August, 2012 and it was a harrowing experience for my family and I. We were thoroughly shaken up and terrified by the incident and the shock is just beginning to wear off. As anyone would expect, tragedy like this takes the topic for discussion's crown and it is the same for us and we did some flashbacks.
While Malaysians generally don't give much credit to the Malaysian Royal Police Force, PDRM, shrugging it off as being the current ruling regime's tool, stooge and henchmen, there are policeman who take their job seriously and execute what is expected of them sincerely without hinting for under table money and we were lucky to come across a policeman with such integrity.
Bad apples like the case of Kuhan and the recent 3 policemen gang raping an Indonesian woman blacken the stature of the police institution as a whole.
While we wondering where my brother would have crashed in Ipoh General Hospital, where he was admitted, (he met with the accident while on his way home on his motorbike after night shift duty and he couldn't recall anything) my adopted brother, his fiancee, my Mom and me went to do some sleuthing work; we temporarily donned Sherlock Holmes' cloak, you would say.
My adopted brother drove along the route my brother takes to go and return for work. We kept our eyes peeled, looking out for the tiniest clue and remainders of a crash site and couldn't find any.
Having our investigation contained in futility, my adopted brother drove to the Chemor police station and the police officer there redirected us to Ulu Kuang police station. The policeman who dealt with us was extremely humble and simpatico. He told us, frame by frame on how he saw my brother lying down at the side of the road, alerted the ambulance, gathered my brother's scattered belongings and how he wheeled the stricken motorbike to the police station for safekeeping.
Next, the policeman began to describe how the accident may have happened judging from the position of my befallen brother and his two wheeler. He passed the buck on heavy turbulence generated by a speeding truck or lorry that made my brother lose control of his vehicle. Another theory was my brother, dozing off while riding his bike, taking his night shift work weariness into account. The policeman asked after the man he saved and we told him that he sustained superficial injuries and that he will have a speedy recovery.
After that, the policeman expressed his relief and gladness that my brother is going to be alright and as my adopted brother pumped the gentleman's hand up and down, thanking him profusely for his timely and immediate help, the policeman smiled and said that he only did his job.
My adopted brother and his fiancee were saying that it is hard to find such a friendly police personnel in Kuala Lumpur.
If you have been following my blog, you would have been informed that my immediate family are devotees to a Guru (saint) who lives in a rural area in South India. They have renounced idol worship and embraced this new, kind of denomination of Hinduism thingy that has no solid back up and history whatsoever. I'm using an euphemism here. The Guru is a gaunt, haggard old man who roams the part of the aforementioned area. I'm maintaining anonymity here in order not to hit on raw nerves.
Diwali this year conflated the topic of my brother's mishap into spirituality and I was left judging.
My brother steadfastly believes that the Guru came in the form of the policeman to rescue him and my believer elder sisters egg him up, poking fire. He also believes that the accident happened because of the karma that he committed in his past births; he was paying for it, equaling karma and dharma up. I do not know whether to laugh or cry. Not wanting to sound blasphemous, I kept my mouth shut but I couldn't belt my inner voice up. It kept surfacing, saying, "What bunkum is this?"
My eldest sister was keeping at stoking my brother up and he, readily gives his head to the spiritual guillotine, losing his head. I accidentally heard my sister speaking to my brother about the Guru dancing to urumi melam (South Indian drums, you know the round thingamabobs our boys beat during Thaipusam that emits bouncy beats) in her meditation. The Guru looks like Omakuchi (an Indian actor who resembles Gollum) and he is very much likely to drop dead at any moment at the slightest exertion.
I always stay away from listening to such nincompoopery and bollocks but that day, the asinine, conjured up revelation fell on my ears and my blood boiled. I sidled away quietly because if I had stayed on, a dissonance is sure to ensue, spoiling our festive mood.
The only ones whom I discerned to be genuine in their spiritualism and meditation are my 4th sister, brother and sister-in-law; they never talk about seeing visions and experiencing supernatural nuances while in meditation and routine life and meditate often and truthfully. Others are faking it. It is so obvious judging from plain, simple logic as base.
Rishis and mahans (Rishis and Mahans are Hindu saints) of ancient India took eons of being in a ruminating state to become enlightened and have Gods appear before them to grant boons. My eldest sister has defied all the feats of the Hindu saints' of yesteryear and is now leading.
As much as I love my family, I abhor some quarters of them because of their tendency to indulge in religious hyperbole and the fact that my only brother falls hook, line and sinker to everything my eldest sister say, all of which are nothing but figments of her imagination.
In my family, there is a tradition called 'grouping', that is, birds of a feather flock together and I don't fit in anywhere at all. I'm like on a lone island where I am the queen and the minister whose anarchy and lawfulness is only determined by conscience, cogent thought process and acquired virtues, not some mumbo-jumbo of an unearthly nyanavallal poochandy. (omniscient boogeyman) who knows all the army secrets of all countries and the thinking of all human beings. I was afraid of my sacrilegious thoughts back then but not anymore. I ain't a wide eyed kid no more to buy the claim, "If you don't believe, God will punish you heavily."
My 4th sister asked a very good question, illustrating why the Guru and my eldest sisters did not issue a warning that our brother has a debacle coming his way and the sensible query silenced the Guru's zealots in my family, albeit briefly. It was a question that was running in my mind but I didn't ask it aloud because I am not in their 'flock'. My 4th sister prodded our eldest sister, "You speak of seeing visions of divinity and predictions so how come you or Guru didn't see this one coming?" As my eldest sister searched for words, my brother came to her rescue, saying that it had to happen so it happened and it was his karma. He also said that it is the grace of the Guru which saved him from being mortally wounded. Talk about blind faith. So, now, that quarter is back on the deception track again.
Privately, my sister-in-law shared with me that in the village in India, where the Guru is based, the village folk don't give a damn to the old man. As far as they are concerned, he is a gallivanting beggar, not the avatar of God and is not worshiped to. Only people from Malaysia believe that they had found God in the form of the Guru and make trips to and fro India in order to meet the Guru and one short, visit India. The person who organizes such trips is a self appointed disciple to this Guru and he is also called as guru by the devotees. Me, being a proud but lonely deviant, am convinced that this is money making business for the disciple. The POWER of CURRENCY. The POWER of DIVINITY is mere facade.
Later on, my 4th sister, her husband, my brother and me were speaking about politics and speculation of the date of the 13th GE and why it would be the fiercest and filthiest general election in the history of Malaysia. It has a real chance to get bloody because Najib has openly and emphatically declared that BN would defend Putrajaya at any cost. That, in itself heralds ominous events that would rack this nation.
Ambiga, our Iron Lady is now veritably in hiding. She is harassed relentlessly, at home, on the road, in her office, in the airport and basically everywhere she goes. She is cornered at every angle and abused just because the of noble cause she initiated, that is, Bersih (clean) rallies intending to have free and fair elections, each rally, bigger and more resounding than the previous one, she being female and Indian. So much for 1Malaysia.
Our leaders in the current ruling regime generally don't walk their talk. They come up with feel good policies every time the Prime Minister is changed, publicize it on government controlled mass media, then forget about it. Tun Dr Mahathir was the precedent of this trend, his mark being Vision 2020 and somehow, his successors saw the need to follow his exemplary through. Instead of making sure the policy succeeded its way into completion, Malaysian prime ministers make policies to make a brand of their tenureship, to make it distinct and outstanding, unwilling to pick up where their former boss left off. What the hell la?
Then our topic digressed into the mentality of Malaysians of Indian ethnicity when voting. While the educated, professional, sentient people would not vote for BN no matter how the ruling regime trumpets of promises being fulfilled, many Indians will fall for the goodies galore masterminded shrewdly by Najib to win the hearts and the votes of low income and poor Indians, my brother-in-law was lamenting.
As quickly the crowd came and gathered, the quicker they left, leaving our house upside down, not that we are complaining.
This year Diwali was hectic yet fulfilling for me. I am not sure whether I triumphed over evil, but hey, we all have our own angel and devil like how Disney cartoon characters like Donald Duck, Pluto and Mickey Mouse are shown to have in cloudy pop ups. You know, their negative and positive conscience. Growing up, I loved the concept rather than theology because it is simple and oh so relevant. You become evil or angelic depending on which one you feed and heed to, the Devil in you or the God in you and it is a lifelong battle which I believe no one has won yet.
So, Diwali, see you next year!!