Among the fondest memories of my childhood are those of Deepawali – keeping an eye out on the things being termed ‘junk’ and making sure that none of my favourite things made it to the list, the smell of the paint (our house was painted every year a week before diwali), the smell of the crackers, the new clothes and finally the wait for the long puja to get over so that we could eat all the sweets and get on with the crackers.
Life took a turn after I joined IIT. I missed my friends, but made new ones. I missed home food and learned to survive on the mess food. I missed diwali, ‘the festival’ but the entire illumination ‘buzz’ excited me. As a first year, there were a lot of things about Kgp I took pride in: the hall culture, the history of Hijli, the diversity IIT Kharagpur provides to an individual and Illumination & Rangoli as they are unique to the institute. If I were to describe Illumination & Rangoli in three points, I would say it’s massive, it’s awesome and it’s a proof that ‘Nothing is Impossible.’ As the years passed, I saw Illumination become a very debatable topic in the campus. The debate has since heated up even more.
In the days approaching Illumination 2004, I went around the campus in the hope of finding a short/long term solution to this debate. I talked to a lot of people with a proposal of scaling down the competition and found a variety of opinions…
1st year students – “Illu is fundoo… we’ll make it better next year. Yo KGP!”
2nd year students – “I am in the hockey team, I participate in drams and still they make me feel as if I am worthless if I do not turn up for Illu work”
Pro-Illumination activists – “Hall unity, Traditions, hoo-haa, gold, illu kiske baap ki?”
Ex Pro-Illumination activists – “I have my CAT this year, please ho sake to illu kaata kara do, but I can’t say this in public.”
The Hall Leaders - “I do agree that the scale of illumination is hurting academics, paralyzing sports and other Soc ‘n’ Cult activities but I cannot take an initiative against this. I am answerable to a group of people. I will cast my vote to scale down this competition iff I am the last person to vote and everyone else also votes the same way. You convince others first and then I am with you. Anyways, my hall has already decided about the themes and all. Let the 2nd years do it… maybe next year”
Non-student population - “Why are you doing all this, this year? My son and daughter-in-law are coming home this Diwali and they want to show Illumination to their children.”
Anti-Illumination activists – “Illumination is waste of time, money, talent and energy.”
I realized that this fight was never about the time, money or effort. This is a struggle of opinions. One group wants to follow the traditions and another wants to tread newer paths. Neither of them is wrong. Neither is it easy to keep on looking for new things to do nor is it simple to maintain the traditions; what’s important is to take a stand based on the beliefs you have. One who never fights, never wins. The true spirit of Dipawali is in enlightening oneself with thoughts.
The BC Roy Hall decided not to participate in the Illumination competition in 1996 and donated their illumination budget to the sufferers of Orissa hurricane. Over the last seven years, the rains have twice spilled water over all the money and the hard work spent over the days.
In the days prior to Illu, KGP used to have cracker-burning competition on the sides of Chhipli lake during diwali. It was not an award based competition but each hall used to put a lot of effort in the hope of impressing SN girls (even I find it hard to believe). Today that does not happen anymore; what we have is the illumination competition. In the future this may change; it might convert to the laser show competition in TOAT. Halls might decide to adopt a nearby poor village and the massive illumination budget may go into educating the people there. However, the true spirit of Diwali must live on.
Here’s wishing all of you a very happy and prosperous Diwali. Make sure that you put one diya in front of your room, find time to clean your room and eat sweets, do not let the result of illu spoil your diwali.
This diwali, get illuminated.
VP, TSG, 2003-2004
Currently Self-Employed at Bangalore