Monday, November 02, 2015

The Broken Lamp

Picture Courtesy : Diba
He sat amidst a group of people prattling away, sometimes singing and sometimes ordering things around. He watched as the clay took shape and his elder sister applied ochre to the clay pots and lamps. He was amused by how the wheel turned around.

One, two, three…he would count and then lose track of his counting as the wheel spun faster. He was particularly mesmerized by the reddle and how it looked so beautifully red in color. He wished to color his hand, but countless reprimands made him sit on a pile of sand, from where he saw his sister work hard. He collected small pieces of mirror around, as he passed his time. “Careful Krishna. Stay away from glass pieces”, his sister would intermittently call out.

“70 more, and you can leave for the day, Swati”, Kishorilal suggested, as he inspected the clay pots, the lamps and designs that Swati made. Krishna smiled, as he realized, that he could leave with his sister, as soon she finished 70 more lamps. He observed her and started counting again. The lamps, this time.

“You should go to school now!”, Kishorilal insisted.

“That’s ok Sir”, I will paint these first and then leave.

“You can do it tomorrow, Swati. There is still time for Diwali”, Kishorilal said.

Swati smiled, as Kishorilal tapped on her head and left. She looked at Krishna who was busy playing with the mirror pieces he had collected.

“Krishna, do you want water?”, Swati looked at her little brother, just 5 years old, and signaled him to come and sit next to her.

All of 14, Swati was a doting sister. Krishna never missed his mother much, who died when he was 1. His father, a farmer would work 16 hours in a day, while his sister worked in her spare time. He excitedly, got down from the pile of sand, slipping away happily and rolled down to reach where Swati was sitting.

She dusted the sand off his legs and hands, and gave him a glass of water.

“What are you doing exactly?”, Krishna asked as he gulped down the water.

“These are lamps. You can put oil in this, like this, and put a wick in it, and light it. It will glow and pass through these designs I’ve made and people can hang it outside the door or keep it in the porch”, she showed him the intricacies of the designs, as she took out the dried lamps from the kiln and started painting it.

“Can I paint one?”, Krishna asked.

“Umm…ok.. Take this”, she handed him a broken lamp and gave him a piece of cloth.

“You are doing all the difficult ones, and you have given me such an easy one!”, Krishna complained.

“You are new to this. Try the simple one first. If you do this well, I’ll give you another. But no mischief, ok?”, Swati warned.

Krishna smiled, as he observed his sister take a piece of cloth, dip it in the reddle and go over the lamp in linear motion. He repeated the same thing. He painted all the broken pieces and wondered how could it hold oil and where could he place the wick.

Swati’s lot looked finished with paint beautifully put over it. Krishna looked at it in awe, and wondered, if he could carry one back too!

“Can we take and light those lamps?”, Krishna asked, pointing to the lamps Swati just finished.

“They are not ours, Krishna. So no! We can’t!”, Swati replied tranquilly.

“Didi, then can we light these lamps for Diwali, at our house?”, he asked Swati as he showed her the one he painted.

“These are broken, Krishna, how can you light them?”, Swati asked.

“Hmm”, Krishna wondered.

After wrapping up the work for the day, Swati collected her daily wage and left for her evening school along with her brother. Satisfied, she heaved a sigh of contentment, and smiled as both of them capered their way towards school.

“Krishna, why did you bring all the broken lamp pieces with you? What’s the use?”, Swati asked.

“I painted them, so I kept them with me”, Krishna said.

“You did a very good job. If you quietly help me like this, you needn't sit away every day. I hate punishing you. You can sit with me, and I will teach you how to make lamps and pots”, Swati suggested.

“That’s a nice idea. But I don’t like this!”, Krishna whined.

“What?”, Swati asked.

“You make lamps; you put them in the kiln, and then paint them too. Why can’t we take 5 or 6 or 7 out of the 100 you make in a day?”, Krishna asked.

“That’s not the right thing to do, Krishna. We should pay if we want to take them”, she answered.

“Then would we have to pay and buy lamps for Diwali?”, Krishna asked.

“Yes. I will ask Kishorilal Uncle to give us at a cheaper rate”, Swati reassured Krishna.

“Don’t bother, Didi”, Krishna replied. “I have an idea”.

“What idea?”, Swati asked.

Krishna simply smiled. “Tell me”, she insisted.

“Later!”, he dodged.

“Please Krishna. No trouble, No mischief ok?”, Swati probed.

Krishna laughed his way to the school, as Swati chased him.


As Diwali came, all the lamps got sold, and the demand increased. The cost increased too. Swati hesitated in asking for lamps at a cheaper rate. Wondering how to explain it to Krishna, she started framing alibis. While she was preparing answers, she heard Krishna’s voice.

“Look Didi. We have a brighter Diwali than most people”, Krishna called his sister out and showed her his array of broken lamps with pieces of mirror placed in it.

“Wow”, Swati exclaimed as her eyes twinkled, with the reflection of the streetlight from the mirror.

“This is brighter than the oil and wick, Krishna. You are brilliant!”, Swati praised him.

“See, I told you I had an idea, Didn’t I?” Krishna felt proud.

“Of course you did. Let baba come and see, he’ll be very happy!”, Swati said.

The new moon, somewhere in the dark sky, wished to be a part of this bright Diwali in the house of Krishna and Swati.