The sun was setting over the sandstone buildings of Jaipur, but the darkness of night was chased away by light radiating from millions of candles and bulbs and lamps. String lights snaked around poles and pillars and stretched out over alleys and streets to create a canopy of light over the people of the city. Earthen diyas and colourful rangoli artworks adorned the insides of shops and hotels.
It was Diwali, the ancient Hindu Festival of Lights, and the joyfulness associated with this festival was palpable in the air. Even street children, with little in this world, seemed carefree, playfully waving sparklers and creating patterns with each swoop.
Diwali is marked by extravagant purchases, but as my limited budget did not allow for gold jewellery or a new car, I opted to buy a couple of scarves instead.
I draped my new scarf over my shoulders as I ducked down into the backseat of a tuk-tuk. Packed in-between two other people, we looked like a stack of buttery naan bread.
Bicycles, rickshaws, scooters, cars and cows merged with us as we turned into the roundabout. Our driver expertly guided the zippy automobile away from the chaotic streets in the city centre to the residential neighbourhoods, a side of Jaipur that travellers rarely get to see. Our G Adventures CEO had invited us to celebrate Diwali in his home with his family and friends.
Romi and his wife, dressed in a white and pink sari with delicate gold trims, greeted us with a warm “Namaste”. We were ushered inside the house, our belongings safely stored away before we were led up the stairs to the rooftop. Chairs lined the walls, and a table in the corner was covered with all sorts of tasty, local snacks.
I immediately walked to the edge of the roof to see the view. Looking up and down the street, I admired the houses decorated with lights. It looked like Christmas! In the distance, I could see the centre of Jaipur.
Indian hospitality is definitely not a myth! I was barely on the rooftop when I was offered something to eat, and the hospitality continued throughout the night. Going home hungry was simply not an option! Romi introduced us to his family, his neighbours and friends. We felt so welcome. The women were particularly curious about my lip piercing.
One corner of the roof was completely cleared. Romi soon appeared with two huge boxes filled to the brim with fireworks. Taking turns, each one of us launched a rocket into the night, splashing brilliant colours across the dark sky.
The rest of the time we twirled around with sparklers, writing words and painting pictures.
We sat down to a homemade vegetarian feast, mildly spiced for our western stomachs. I was graciously offered a second helping which I gladly accepted. The food was delicious!
We ended our night in style with Bollywood dancing!
That night we celebrated the true spirit of Diwali. We celebrated the triumph of light over darkness and wisdom over ignorance.