I still remember how I felt the first time I read a novel by Leon Uris. I was 12 or 13. Mine was a sheltered life. A safe, small community where everybody knew everybody else and my parents were respected enough. So, we freely roamed the hillsides, nibbling on berries and swinging on trees. With the advent of Television, some gruesome images had penetrated my mind, it is true, but most of my knowledge of worldly-bad and evil came from the spirited conversations we had with family, teachers, friends, and from the daily newspapers. So, it was probably right to say that I had no clue or exposure to the horrific depths to which humanity could sink.
Our history textbook gave us statistical information about unrest, wars and the number of lives claimed etc, and I had been properly horrified then. But, there is something about reading a Novel, that brings home the truth to you in a manner that no amount of statistics can. These are people you begin to know through the narrative and to even care about. To see them thrown in the throes of the Second World War is just shocking.
I still remember shaking with fury in the night. The temperature outside was sub-zero, and it was raining noisily, but I was hot, helpless and angry. I finished reading at 1 a.m. and when at 3 a.m. my mother came to see why my lights were still on, she found me weeping incoherently and writing furiously at my desk. I had filled papers and papers with my rant and my heart felt hollow, my eyes swollen.
My poor mother. I had school holidays, but she still had to go to work the next day. I am sure she wanted to just get back in bed and snuggle into her sheets. Who wants to have their sleep disturbed by teenagers reading novels? But she listened to me and in her matter of fact way, told me to think of how in the end Good triumphed over Evil and to say the 3 slokas she taught me when I was 5, over and over again so I could fall asleep. “But there is no God! If something like this can be allowed to happen, there is no God!” I said.
“That may be so. But saying these slokas over and over again, will make you concentrate on something else and let you sleep.” she said.
I must have fallen asleep at some point that night for when I woke the sun had managed to rise without my knowledge, and was peeking through the clouds whenever it could, to turn a watery sun upon us. I am sure she told my father about it, for when I got up the next day, there was a quizzical gleam in his eyes as he surveyed me, like his little daughter had suddenly grown up.
Ever since, every time I read anything about the World Wars, I blanch and brace myself for impact. Which is why, I was angry at myself for clicking on that link the day I had taken off to enjoy Diwali with the children at home. My heart lurched and the food I had eaten 3 hours ago threatened to leave if I continued reading it.
I clamped the laptop shut and resolved to celebrate Diwali. After all, wasn’t the point of Diwali to signify that Love triumphs over Evil? That light always triumphs over darkness.
“Happiness can be found even in the darkest times if one only remembers to turn on the light. ” Albus Dumbledore in Prisoner of Azkaban
That evening, as we drew a crooked rangoli in front of the house, colored it in, and set tiny tea lamps on them, I managed to fill my heart with hope that things will be okay. That in the bleakest of times, there is always light, if we dip deep into ourselves for hope.
There are always terrors anew in this world. Terror attacks, refugee crisis, civil unrest, wars. The same sword that kills also protects – humanity has that which is loathsome and hopeful in them. There is love and hope in this world, and that alone will help us face Evil.