Diwali with a ‘Difference’

"Woof woof", my dog, Cooper came over and cuddled up beside me on my bed. It was 6 am, and I was still dreaming about my upcoming Diwali celebrations. Just then my mum called, "Manan! Get up! You'll be late for school." Reluctantly, I got up and started getting ready for school. Friends, before moving further, let me introduce myself. My name is Manan, I study in std 6 and, this is my story!

Of all the festivals, Diwali is my favorite. Do you know why? Because of the colors, firecrackers, food delicacies, and holidays it brings along with it.

As I was leaving for school, my dad called out, "Manan! Do you want to go buy firecrackers today?"

"Hurray!!" I screamed with joy. "Yes dad! I already have my list ready." 

Feeling excited, I boarded the school bus.I felt restless throughout the day at school. I kept looking at my watch, and thought, "When is the bell for home time going to ring?"

Finally, it was evening! I was playing in the society compound when Dad entered the main gate. He had come home earlier than usual. I followed him inside the house and as soon as he'd finished having his tea and snacks, I asked him, "Dad! Shall we go to the market? I am ready!"

"Yes beta!! Let's go!" answered dad.

Once at the market, I quickly collected everything that was on my list and walked out  with my bag full of a variety of firecrackers.

I was looking at the shops displaying brightly colored diyas, lamps, candles and decoration streamers when suddenly, thud! down fell my bag, as I bumped into a young boy. Lo and behold! All my firecrackers scattered out of the bag!

I quickly bent down to pick up the firecrackers. I noticed the expression of wonder and amazement on the young boy's face as he stared at my fireworks. It appeared as though he had never seen them this closely. He bent down to pick up myanaarsandchakkaras. Feeling insecure, I snatched them from him and quickly put them back in my bag. As I stood there looking at him, I realized there was something different about this boy. His clothes were tattered; he had bruises on his hands and legs and looked as though he had not eaten in a few days.

"Manan! Hurry up! It's time to go!" my dad shouted, waving at me. "Yes! Dad! Here I come!"

On reaching home, I gobbled down my dinner and ran out to burst the firecrackers with Cooper by my side. "Hey Cooper! Watch out!" I called out, as I lit my firstanaar(flower pot).  I was mesmerized by the variety of colors that burst open from the firecracker and lit up the sky, but my wonder was short lived. "Yelp! Yelp!" whimpered Cooper and disappeared indoors. Perhaps, it was the firecracker's sound that had scared him. I also noticed that my grandfather had gone inside the house coughing. Wondering why, I looked around and noticed all the smoke that may have been irritating his throat. Feeling bad for only a second, I continued lighting the firecrackers one after another. But, inside me, it felt different - I felt guilty about taking pleasure from bursting the firecrackers.  

I could feel my conscience pricking me, "Manan! How can you do this? It hardly takes a few minutes andpoof!all the money disappears in smoke. Whereas the boy you met today, he looked like he did not even have the basic necessities of life. Didn't you see how your firecrackers have scared Cooper and affected grandpa too? Can you still ignore these things and indulge in this kind of fun?"

Realizing the worthlessness of this temporary pleasure, I really wanted to use the money in a more rewarding way. I started thinking about alternate ways to celebrate Diwali.  I went up to my grandpa and narrated the whole experience to him.

"Beta, I feel so proud of you! And, I really appreciate your thoughtfulness for celebrating 'Diwali with a Difference'," grandpa said, with a pat on my shoulder.

"Dadaji, can we go to an orphanage and celebrate the festival there with those kids?" I asked him.

"Wonderful, Manan! That's a brilliant idea! Let us share this idea with your parents and go there together."

Later that day, we discussed the idea with my mum and dad, who at once agreed to become a part of this 'Diwali with a Difference' mission with us.

After some research, we decided to visit, "Happy Home" to celebrate Diwali with the children living there. Finally, on Diwali we arrived there with cake, sweets, games, and gifts for everyone.

Soon enough, the place was filled with laughter, joy, bliss and celebration. The innocent children were having a great time singing songs, sharing stories, cracking jokes, and playing games. Just then, one of the kids walked up to me and said, "Bhaiyya, thank you so much! We've never had so much fun before. You've really made this Diwali 'different' for all of us."

Feeling satisfied from within, I looked at Cooper who was also enjoying in his own way with everyone. Even before we realized, it was already time for us to leave. We said our 'goodbyes' to them, promising to come back again very soon.

This was indeed the best Diwali celebrated so far!  

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