Faces of Diwali

During the week leading up to Diwali, I walked around the city identifying people who light up the festival for us. I tried to go a layer deeper than just the shops selling shiny new things, to explore an alternative experience that could be more enriching and inspiring. Faces of Diwali is a series of portraits of people who light up our Diwali with their art, their stories, or simply by their existence.

Meet our upstairs neighbour, Aruna auntie. While she showed us how to connect the dots in her rangoli masterclass, she shared stories of her childhood in Maharashtra. As little girls, she and her sisters would make rangolis in their courtyard everyday for a month leading up to Diwali. Every morning, the floor would be cleaned with cow dung and water, and they'd be at it again. This was a tradition in every house, and the whole colony was a massive art exhibit for the entire month. Evenings were spent walking around, marveling at the dancing colour patterns. #facesofdiwali

Ekra's school is shut today for Karva Chauth, so she's at the Ghazipur Phool Mandi to help ammi at work. The two are among dozens of women responsible for threading truckloads of flowers coming in from Hapur into meter-long maalas. These are in high demand for decoration during the weeks leading up to Diwali. The women are paid two rupees per string, and it takes each of them 2-3 hours to do fifty rupees worth of work. Ekra loves to spend her free time at the mandi. "Flowers are so pretty, they smell so good, and they're the freshest here!", she exclaims as she takes a break to play with a pile of Guldavari petals that no one else seems to want. #facesofdiwali

Baba came home from the phool mandi this morning to find a distressed Sheru waiting. Our oldie has survived over a dozen Diwalis on the streets, but the apocalyptic sounds still leave him thoroughly upset and exhausted. Resting his head on his baba's thigh, he leaned hard for comfort.
If you must burst crackers, take a couple of minutes to look around. Just like your car, a loved one's dupatta and the neighbour's kid are seen to safety before you light up that ladi, please extend your compassion to these angels by doing a quick check for the ones who might be hiding under cars or in dark corners. #facesofdiwali

Yash and Pulkit are students at the Amar Jyoti School for differently abled children. While their pottery teacher's busy churning out diyas for the Charitable Trust's annual Diwali mela, this two-man team polishes their skills on the wheel. On being asked what activity they enjoy the most at school, "Art & Craft!" is their instant, enthusiastic response. "Because we have the freedom to create anything we want." #facesofdiwali

While Tanishq advertisements air on loop during Diwali week, all the sparkling jewellery stores crowding the Delhi markets catch my eye. Outside one such store, I met a gentleman called Anil Patwa. He's a part of the Patwa community which is known to possess some serious skill with jewellery-making and threading of beads. Today, he turned ma's antique pendant into an old-new masterpiece. Over hot ram laddoos, we watched him weave magic with some humble cotton thread and an assortment of beads. "Machines can't totally replace our mind and creative instinct", he says. "Not yet anyway." #facesofdiwali

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