Dear Reader, for the people living in the eastern part of India, October is a very special month. The nine day autumn festival is celebrated here with all the accompanying pomp. It is said that the Goddess Durga comes down from the heavens on the 6th day to mingle with us mortals and returns on the 10th. Her departure is marked by the burning of effigies of the feared demon whom she vanquished. This day marks the triumph of good over evil.
The above description is the philosophical explanation for the days we spend just having a roaring good time in the company of friends and family. This year however, we saw something that most of us have never witnessed and hope to never witness again. The eastern coast of India was hit by the Cyclone Phailin, which made landfall smack in the middle of the festival. Needless to say it was not something we had ever experienced.
The past year has been quite rough for Indians, our society has witnessed various political, economic and more importantly, social upheavals. To a philosophical mind the current scenario can be likened to the storm that raged during the Durga Pujas and our moral compass, the idol of the goddess that stood defiantly against the cyclonic winds. To a believer, it was as if the goddess was indeed battling the evil around us....
Something, that the shrunken old priest said to me when I expressed my doubts about the safety of the idol during the storm stuck to me as deeply poignant...he said " This cyclone is just the evil in our society, this year has been full of bad things, more than other years, the goddess is not just an idol...she is the goodness in all of us..she is our conscience, which prevents us from giving in to the evil taking root in our hearts...This cyclone will pass with nary a scratch on us..the clay idol will not fall against these strong winds....because of the irrefutable fact that good always vanquishes evil...."Now dear reader, I am not really religious, but these words have managed to stay with me.
It's still drizzling and the festival has come to an end. The streets are now filled with the sound drum beats as it is safe for the people to come out to bid farewell, and immerse the Goddess in the river. The idol may be gone but we retain the joy of the days spent rejoicing and celebrating family and community and we are also left with the hope that we, as a society will survive all these storms..because there is still something left to fight for.