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Apeksha Bagchi

IWB Blogger

Diwali Is Not A Festival Of Lights For Me, It Is As Dark As Any Other Day: Female Vendor Kavita

  • IWB Post
  •  November 6, 2018

“Rs 200! Nahi, nahi, 100 mein do toh bolo!” Every year, I watch my mother, in bemused exasperation, as she haggles with countless women vendors sitting on roadsides, selling diyas, rangolis and many other things. Mostly, I am a silent spectator in this scenario, but the other day when dear mommy took out her bargaining weapons, the woman selling the tablecloths looked up with a pained expression and said, “Aap log kabhi sochte ho hamari Diwali kaise manegi?” Do we? I don’t think so.

So how do these women, sitting in the scorching sun and leaving after 10, sometimes 11, at night, celebrate Diwali? We at Indian Women Blog set out to find the answers to this question and ended up at Bapu Bazar, the shopping paradise of Jaipur.

A little apprehensive at first, we approached one of the women there, standing with many ethnic earrings and above all, the thing that made us approach her- trying hard to console her crying child and simultaneously attending to her customers.

Female Vendor

Agreeing to talk with us on the condition that we buy something from her, we started a conversation with her. Her day starts at 10 in the morning and stretches up to 11 at night during festivals. While she explained her morning routine, I was acutely aware of the scorching sun burning my neck and wondered aloud how she managed to sit here all day, that too in the direct sunlight.

“I don’t have an option here. These shopkeepers don’t allow us to sit outside their shops. That bhaiya there allowed me to sit outside his shop. And I am grateful, no matter how much heat is there I have to tolerate. After all, I have to survive and feed my boy here,” she said with a sad smile.

Female Vendor

The beautiful earrings I brought from Kavita.

She further shared that her husband had left her years ago, leaving her to bear the responsibility of their child alone. The boy, Shivam, sits with her the entire day and she does her best to shield him from the scorching heat by making him sit behind her. When I asked whether she feels safe when traveling to her home so late at night, she looked back at her son and said, “When my baby is with me, I automatically become strong enough to protect both of us. Maa to aisi hi hoti hai na,” she told me.

On Diwali, she is going to set up her shop at the same spot but will leave around 7 for Laxmi puja at her house. Just then we heard the distinct sound of a cracker going off in the distance which prompted the kid to start asking his mother for crackers.

“We can’t afford crackers. Maybe a packet of phuljhadi, but that’s all. I can’t even afford to spend money on lighting up my house with diyas either. The place I live in, there are others like me there and to say it simply, Diwali for us is not a festival of lights, it is as dark as every other day,” she said.

By then, her boy had buried his head in his mother’s shoulder and was wailing out incomprehensible words.

“Arre madam, he is pretending to cry, I am talking to you, na, not giving him my full attention so he is whining. See his eyes, not a single tear there! He will start smiling the instant I stop talking to you and swirl him around in my arms,” she said with a smile as she looked at him.

As we bid farewell to her and walked away to find more women vendors, I looked back after hearing the kid’s peels of laughter and saw his toothy smile as his mother, laughing at his antics, swung him around. And I have to say, even though I may be armed with all the Diwali crackers, surrounded by millions of diyas and can afford to be careless when it comes to money, I can never rival that bright smile.

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