It is almost 8pm at the Red Fort, and there’s been no reason to stick around to listen to the rest of the ‘Sound and Light’ show. The show gives an audio version of the history of the monument – those who lived there, in palace and imprisoned. But, we were already at the point when Mahatma Gandhi started to reject British colonial and cultural superiority. So, we knew the end of that story. It’s Diwali, after all, and we’re just a stone’s throw away from Old Delhi’s Chandni Chowk – a site my companion for the evening hasn’t seen yet.
Her father is Guyanese Indian and she’s in India for the first time, in Delhi for just one day, and back in my life after ten years. We went to high school together and happened to be connected on facebook – and so, the stars aligned for an evening under Lakshmi’s lights. As we exit the show, we pass by the closed stalls and deserted shops. But one remains open. They have jewelry and bangles, and sheeshah pipes and pens – and this is her only night in Delhi. So, we stop. And so the shopkeepers, too, must stop. Their ‘puja’ that is. But, they say, ‘we are praying to Lakshmi so that she brings prosperity and wealth into our shop, and you’re here when no one else is here and no other shop is open, but this one. So, she brings you in. We are happy. No problem.’
We shop and we bargain, and I beg the bhaiya to drop his price for a brass hookah for my high school chum. We banter a bit and I ask what is it they’re doing with the fruit for Lakshmi. “Do you eat it or throw it away tomorrow?” she asks. ‘We can give it away, but it must stay tonight for Lakshmi.’ “Ok, well I’m sorry. I feel bad that we interrupted your puja,” I say. ‘You know about my puja? I am so happy. You not from here and you know about my puja,’ he says with excitement. “Well, yes, you know about my President. I know about your puja,” I say with a head bob and a chuckle.
We bag our bundles and head to the Gurdwara for a loud scene of firecrackers and marigold dust. Yet it feels as if we’ve taken home more in our bags than just our trinkets.
My ears are ringing from the firecrackers in the street, launched by housewives and their school age children. This is not the part of Diwali that I like. I don’t like the chaos, but prefer the prayer – the oil and the lights, the fruit and the altars, the chants and the good intentions heard by Lakshmi-ji. I reach home focusing on a new day with a city full of her goodwill around me, and I know that I’m in for some changes.
In her own Shiva-esque (destructive) kind of way, good ole’ Lakshmi-ji has been bringing me prosperity and light ever sense. This week has been one of shedding spotlights on truths I would rather keep hidden. The relationship I am not over, the money I’m not spending well, the weight I’m not maintaining, the PhD program I haven’t decided on, the promotion I need to get, the onward assignment I’d better fight for, the aunt that’s in the hospital, the forgiveness I can’t give, the greatness that I need more convincing to believe I deserve…
And oh how much I need that light. What an exhale it is at that moment when you admit that you are not where you want to be, but that you know – without hesitation – that you will get there, you will live that reality, you will become what you seek. Lakshmi puja is about asking for divine intervention to improve well-being and enhance prosperity of all kinds. It is asking for help – something that I hate to do, but must damn well get better at – to be a better you (or me, I should say). I feel a respite in that; not a surrender, but a settling down like firecracker ashes on pavement.
Something quiets in my soul and a certain stamina regenerates itself. After all, Lakshmi is also characterized by a positive, results-oriented kind of energy. So, this is not your pansy, ‘wake up zestfully clean’ energy. This is your ‘extraordinary perseverance to push through emotional exhaustion to concur new stages of mental, physical, and spiritual wellness,’ kinda Shakti! Lakshmi ain’t no chump.
So, she put me to work. I blame her for making me call my ex to face some hard learned facts, but damn it if I can’t credit her for setting me straight! She got me tickets to an exclusive summit that put me face to face with a powerful professor at the university I’d like to attend for my PhD. Homegirl even had me sit down and go over my finances today, so I could ‘trim the fat’ and get on the good foot. This week she and I laughed, we cried (well, mostly, I cried). And she let me have a chocolate chip cookie after she saw that I weighed in 5 lbs lighter than 2 weeks ago. I mean, really, she and I have had an interesting week since that night in the Red Fort.
I’m not so sure what I did to deserve her attention in a city full of people beckoning her into their lives. Maybe I caught some residual puja purity or I was in the right place at the right time all too frequently this week. But what I do know for certain is that since Tuesday night, I’ve been sure that I have a star in my corner. And, with that, the future is looking mighty bright.