I love this festival. Its pretty. Cheers you up to see all those ugly buildings dressed up in colourful lights and lanterns. That is, till the crackers start up and your members start making their rounds for their annual ‘blessings’.
The knocking on doors begins a week prior to and continues into the week following the actual diwali date. I open the door to be assailed by a WIDE SMILE of the following …. the chowkidar (on behalf of the building security team), the cleaner (on behalf of 2 others), the newspaper delivery boy, the post man (on behalf of 4 others), the kiraana wala, the plumber, the presswala, the dog walker, the window cleaner, the painter, the nanny, the vegetable vendor and anyone I may have, in a moment of weakness, called home for some work. The smile is self explanatory. It means that the light of joy is lighting up the universe and now needs to light up my wallet to expend some green energy, pronto. I feel judged by the amount I hand out as ‘diwali shagun’ irrespective of the fact that i may be privy to their reincarnation for a brief moment at my doorstep … once a year.
There have been some innovations along the years. One that comes to mind is that of a man at the door with the society bill in a thaali. Let’s ignore the fact that its a bill. There is no mithai or deeya in the thaali. There is however a 500 rupee note and a 1000 rupee note, strategically placed in the thali for me to get the message. There is also a list of all society members, their flat numbers and the amount they have donated to the cause. The pressure to compete with the joneses creeps in. There are four things i can do.
1. Put in an amount larger than anyone else in the list to win the love and affection of the security guards and be famed for my generosity
2. In a perverse stroke of genius, give the least amount on the list and wait for people to call me ‘kanjoos’ ‘makhichoos’.
3. Put in the amount paid by the largest common denominator and feel cocooned in this mass mentality … popularly referred to as herd mentality.
4. Refuse to play along and instead help myself to the money in the thaali. I understand that this action may not endear me to you.
Overall, i prefer this direct and brazen approach by your members. There is no second guessing involved. It keeps the collectorate’s dignity intact. It keeps my humour alive. There are no blank stares or a lengthy, silent struggle to comprehend the underlying motive behind the ringing of the doorbell and the wide smile which refuses to waver. The adoring expectation in the eyes of your members fills me with guilt for feeling momentarily mean hearted when instead I should be filled with the desire to serve.
Every year as the festival approaches, I stock up on cash. As inflation increases I find the money in the wallet runs out quicker and I run to the ATM more frequently to keep up with this spirit of giving.
quaking in trepidation as the doorbell rings,
A beleaguered building occupant