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Electrical lighting has become a symbol of the Goddess Laxmi

November 12, 2007

When we hit Mumbai the first thing that struck me were the lights. Mumbai’s wealth was evident even from the sky. I could not get a decent picture from up there but I did once we hit the ground. Here are a few of the pictures I took. And these are just the middle class localities.

The next one hasn’t come out clearly as we were going too fast but I couldn’t resist posting it.

Diwali is the festival of lights and it’s a time when the Goddess of Wealth, Lakshmi, comes to our homes. It is believed that on that day of Diwali the doors are to be kept open and the house lighted up…but the irony is that only those who already possess the wealth can light up their homes. And with the power cuts in rural areas only those who can afford gensets can do so.

That was why I was touched by this Mumbai Mirror story which told of “30 families in a building in Parel who switched off all lights, fans and all other electrical appliances in their houses and lit only diyas (earthen lamps) in the peak hours between 7 pm and 10 pm from Thursday to Sunday, so that people who faced power cuts for 15 hours in some regions of the state could get to celebrate Diwali.” And they did it despite being warned that if they switched off their lights the Goddess Laxmi might just give them the slip! It’s amazing that people can talk such nonsense considering that Diwali has been celebrated for hundreds of years, before electricity was ever invented. It is creditable the residents of the building persisted with their resolve to save power.

The situation is smaller towns is indeed bleak and it shows no sign of improvement. As it says here:

While major cities like Nashik, Thane, Navi Mumbai and Aurangabad are facing power cuts of up to two hours a day, smaller towns like Kalyan-Dombivali, Sangli, Satara, Amravati and such others are having to suffer power cuts of up to four hours in a day and the rural areas, for up to six to eight hours a day.

Well, I am not sure that I can do without electrical appliances myself but I cannot help but admire those who can. I am addicted not to ac’s and fans but to the computer. And to some extent the refrigerator as I am in the habit of shopping several days in advance. I can do without hot water, television and even my mobile but if you take away the computer I will suffer serious withdrawal symptoms.

(All pictures have been taken by me except for the last one which is from Mumbai Mirror and linked to the original)

Update: Arleen sent me a link to a picture of the earth as it looks from the sky at night. I am adding a part of it here which shows India. You can see the brighter dot that is Mumbai. If you want to see the whole world click on the picture and you be taken to the complete photograph from NASA.

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15 Comments leave one →
  1. November 12, 2007 10:41 am

    Those 30 families have sent a great message of Diwali.. It’s time to change these superficial traditions way of celebrating. It has become more of enjoying and same time destroying ourselves.

    Also, On this special day there are many more negative activities happen.. like: gambling, betting, drinking, partying .. and off course Firecrackers are great destruction source to Our Nature.

    Thank you Nita for this wonderful post.

    Read this Change Diwali traditions? Diwali contest children’s story

  2. November 12, 2007 12:48 pm

    @Bharath:

    That was a very touching piece. I guess children have something to teach us. Thanks.

  3. November 12, 2007 3:44 pm

    Welcome back, Nita!
    The answer to the problems of the poor is not less consumption, but more. If more people can consume more (as would happen in a fast growing free economy) it would do all good. However, to do that, we need to get rid of controls, which won’t happen soon. So, till such time, no amount of guilt and self limitation is going to improve the lots of the poor. My two cents…

  4. November 12, 2007 5:10 pm

    @rambodoc:

    Thanks.
    If we use up limited resources then even the rich will have a problem one of these days. The more we consume, the more we use up. I guess one can be optimistic and say the world will harness solar energy in an economical way and all our problems will be solved but at the moment even the rich suffer in the sense that they have to pay more and more for the power.
    If I implied that the rich should not consume because the poor aren’t able to then I miscommunicated. What I meant was that it was ironical that those who need Laxmi the most cannot celebrate with a liberal use of electric power. Just the irony of it.
    But yes I did mean that the rich should save power but not because the poor can use it but because there is a shortage of power in our country. If there was no shortage then your argument would apply.

  5. November 12, 2007 7:24 pm

    Nita,

    I enjoyed how you tied in a time-honored holiday with the modern problem of power shortages. It’s also interesting to see how human it is to crave the light.

    I recently traveled to an ashram in Texas, where many people had lit their homes with lights, some in beautiful arrangements. Someone told me it was in honor of Dewali, but I had no idea what that celebration was. Thanks for your explanation. I hope the Goddess Laxmi showers you with your heart’s desire. Maybe she already has!

  6. November 12, 2007 8:21 pm

    I believe in the ‘consume more’ mantra, until it reaches a point where consuming it leads to wastage. Being from Dombivli, I know how 5 hour power cuts are – they becmoe part of life. Schedules are published in newspapers and everything revolves around it, afterall, there was a time when we had water supply only two hours in the morning on alternate days🙂

    It’s painful to see people waste everything – electricity, food, paper, everything. But in my experience for people who have grown up in Canada, these resources are like commodity, and (understandably) they simply can’t relate to the word ‘shortage’.

    Happy Diwali to you, belated that is!

  7. Arleen permalink
    November 12, 2007 8:35 pm

    Here’s a good visual that relates to both wealth and population density, via http://antwrp.gsfc.nasa.gov/apod/image/0011/earthlights_dmsp_big.jpg

  8. November 12, 2007 9:44 pm

    Thanks for sharing the news about Parel, its sad that our media was covering a live word to word detail as to who won between OSO and Sawariya, and we missed out on such an important news.
    Its really heartening to see such efforts.

  9. November 12, 2007 10:55 pm

    Thanks Christine. I think by learning yoga you are getting exposed to Indian culture quite a bit!

    Priyank thanks for the wishes and I can read inbetween your lines and think you miss good old Dombivli! And I agree with you on the wastage bit…but then its so subjective!

    Arleen thanks. I’ve decided to add a part of the picture to the post.

    Rambler, that obsession with comparing the films was irritating me too although I am a movie buff…

  10. November 14, 2007 12:12 pm

    why only divali?
    mumbai has indias highest light pollution
    when have u seen a star lit sky here
    i remember it was around 22 yrs ago on a new moon day that i had managed to see one

    i have to make do with remembering sights of ladakhi skies
    from my visit there

  11. November 14, 2007 12:16 pm

    in the rich and poor arguement i dont think all rich comsume that much power during diwali

    agreed the rich need bells and whistles like central ac hot baths and electric appliances etc and consume 10times the power the poor do

    but during diwali the poor show demonstrative effect
    they light more crackers than they can really afford
    light up their balconies or windows with much more zeal etc

  12. November 14, 2007 3:34 pm

    i really love all the pics associated with this article…landed upon ur blog thru ruhis……

  13. November 14, 2007 6:43 pm

    @arpan:

    thanks and welcome to the blog.🙂

  14. November 15, 2007 3:11 am

    Diwali must be one of the most meaningful and beautiful festivals in the world (or even the most!). Indians are just great at envening celebrations – they celebrate every little occasion – I find it sooooo sweet. The Westernes should learn it from them!
    NIta, really nice article🙂

    Thanks Axinia. – Nita.

  15. November 16, 2007 1:36 pm

    Have to agree with prax. Heck I get to see stars even in chicago!!! I used to look forward to a few power cuts (though with a mixed feeling whenever they happened) while I was doing my 11th and 12th. It was arguably the best way to introspect, and for a change, stare into an almost starless sky!

    @Axinia: I don’t know what is so sweet about loud, noisy, firecrackers, harmful colors and clay idols…

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