Diwali has always been a little special - after all, it's the festival of lights, rangolis, and sweets (and not just soan papdi!). Diwali became even more special for me, when I moved away from home for my education, and later, job. Because even when friends took over Holi, Diwali remained gharwali.
But this year, despite it being gharwali Diwali, I am not celebrating it. Because I am one of the many people who lost a loved one this year to the deadly Covid-19 pandemic.
While I am glad to see the world recover, the grief, pain, and trauma of the pandemic are still alive in my heart. That's the thing about loss - it has a way of overshadowing your life in expected and unexpected moments.
The pain of losing a loved one never really leaves you. I should know, I have lost far too many people in far too short a time in my life, and not just to Covid. But this year, the grief seems to have enveloped the entire nation, or rather, the entire world.
And special occasions and festivals somehow, always make the pain a little harder to bear. Perhaps because it's hard to imagine what happiness could look like when the person who brought a smile to your face, can never be a part of your life again.
Yes, life moves on and we have to move on with it. I am also aware of how, in multiple ways, I am far more privileged than many other people who also lost their loved ones. But grief has a way of stripping the many said and unsaid barriers between people. And at the core of it, we are all collectively grieving over the loss of our loved ones.
So yes, this particular year, Diwali is especially triggering. So is the thought of spending birthdays, graduations, weddings, and countless other special and mundane moments without my loved ones. Their loss is a physical ache, and even when I revisit old images, messages, the pain doesn't abate.
I know that happiness will be bittersweet for a while... or perhaps, for a lifetime. I know that certain songs, things, food items, and especially festivals, will take me down memory lane, whether I want to go there or not. I know that love, for me at least, will always be intertwined with loss.
But, I also know, that the memories I built with my loved ones will light up my life just as brightly as the Diwali diyas lit up home all these years
To everyone who, like me, may not be celebrating Diwali this year - the festival may not be as bright this year, but the love we had for our loved ones, can shine just as bright this year, and for years to come.