Year : 1991, A Diwali day , 10.00 am at CRPF Residence Quarters, Hyderabad
“I want to see the fire.. please didi light some crackers” , 6 yrs old Su said.
“No, not now. In the night. Diwali crackers are to be lighted in the night
” 8 yrs old Didi answered.
“Please didi, just one.. please”
“No. not now, let Amma & Papa come back”
“Please didi, I want to see the fire, please light one kambithiri (sparkle stick)”
She dragged a stool towards the stand on the wall where God’s idol was kept. She climbed on the stool and took the match box kept next to the Vilakku (lamp). Su took 1 sparkle stick out of the box under the table. She took a piece of newspaper and both moved towards the living room window.
“I will light the newspaper, and hold it outside the window, you can light the stick from the fire in the newspaper and hold it outside the window.”
Su gleefully “haan haa”
She kept the newspaper on the window sill and lighted it. And then the most unexpected thing happened. The wind blew the burning paper into the room and it fell on the cotton cloth which covered the sewing machine next to the window. It caught fire.
Su was scared and started crying. She immediately pulled the burning cloth down, but by then the sewing machine bar had caught fire. She ran to the bathroom and dragged a bucket of water to the room and poured cups of water on the burning cloth and sewing machine. The fire was put out. Next she took a broom and cleaned off the charred cloth and ash water from the room. Then she noticed a burnt hole in her pink frock. She immediately changed the frock, hid it behind the iron trunk in the bedroom.
Then she took her frightened little brother with her, locked the flat (in the 1st floor) from outside, climbed down the stairs and sat at end of the stair case waiting for her parents to come back.
She had cleaned and hid the frock, so that her parents don’t come to know about the fire. But when the parents were back, she just broke into tears.
Amma worried, “What happened, why are you here and not in the room? I asked you both to stay inside till we come”.
Sob. “go up and see”
“What ? What happened”
Sob. “go up and see”
Amma grabbed Su and Papa grabbed her and rushed upstairs.
On entering the flat, they didn’t find anything odd. Then they got a faint burnt smell. Amma ran to kitchen. But there was nothing on the stove and everything was as she had left. They both looked at her quizzically.
“What happened ?”
She pointed toward the sewing machine. Papa inspected the sewing machine and found the burn marks on the wooden platform, burnt and broken sewing bar. She broke into tears again and narrated the whole incident.
Papa looked at the crackers kept below the table. They were intact, except for one sparkle stick on the floor near the window.
Amma “ Thank God. The crackers didn’t catch fire. How could you both be so naughty? I just left you for few minutes and this is what you have done?…………’
Papa inspected them for burns. After making sure they both were fine, he took the broken bar, pulled both the kids to the bedroom. Tied them to the leg of the bed and said “Stay there till I come back from the duty. No more play, No crackers, No Diwali for you”
Amma, ofcourse untied them after some time, fed them but did not allow them to move out of the room. By evening papa came back. He did not talk to them. They had a silent dinner. Outside the room crackers were bursting, children were shouting; inside, there was dead silence. The children went to bed sobbing.
Then they heard Papa’s voice.“So you are sleeping without burning crackers on Diwali? and who will eat the Diwali sweets I have brought ?” The children jumped out of the bed. The whole family went to the verandah, burnt crackers with Papa’s supervision, enjoyed sweets and happily celebrated Diwali. Next day Amma & Papa explained to them their mistakes and about the danger their action would have caused. And also praised the girl for her presence of mind and appreciated the way she managed the situation.
Things I don’t remember now about the incident : Where did Amma & Papa go ?
And what was my brother doing all the time I was putting out the fire and cleaning the floor.
“WISH YOU ALL A HAPPY AND SAFE DIWALI”