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Wiki says: “A ”’candle”’ is a solid block of wax with an embedded candle wick, which is ignited to provide light, and sometimes heat, and historically was used as a method of keeping time.”

 When we were small, our days were marked by long hours of unannounced load shedding. Needless to say inverters or generators were things yet to be discovered or put to common domestic use. Those dark hours (if it were night) were spent sitting around melting candles throwing weak flickers of lights in rooms  domineered by shadows. Families were large and playmates were easily found in siblings and hordes of cousins. Time would pass by in a jiffy playing Antakshari/Word Building/Guessing Games and other brain twisters.

In the meanwhile, the patriarchs would find it appropriate to blast the Government or play Bridge rowdily blaming each other and their partners for the wrong moves causing defeat or spoilers while the ladies of the house amused themselves with family or neighborhood gossips – who is going around with whom and who is expecting her second or third issue and such other entertaining exchanges!

The more enterprising ones, like my elder sis, would lit the wick and try a sly hand at planchette invoking the spirits, evil or noble, hovering in the troposphere, on the lookout for gullible humans, desperate to know what lay in store for them in the immediate future. That evergreen heart thudding question: does he love me or loves me not….or that breath stopping one: when will that TDH (Tall Dark and Handsome) Gregory Peckian styled heart-robber, jump straight out of the mushy pages of Mills & Boon, gatecrash into my life and sweep me off my feet …or a more puritan query: will I pass the Half Yearlies with flying colours? …or a calculated one: which way should I present that craftily stolen red rose (from the school garden) to my favourite teacher to bring a patronizing smile on her pursed lips and a doting glaze to her stern eyes freezing the same to permanency?  Innocent, innocuous, insouciant time pass!

We always had a pack of candles stacked in the store room – it was an essential item for light-less exigency. Not only for the mosquito-bite ridden nights but also for certain soporific hours of the day when Father would light one in front of the house deity and pray or meditate. My roguish cousin made it a point to frighten me with eerie noises when we gathered to play The Dark Room. The lights would be turned off and special pains taken to ward off even a flicker of ray from outside. The unfortunate one amongst us, mostly me, would be designated to find the rest of the gang in that pitch, blinding darkness. If you were lucky you would soon stumble on one of the crouching lurkers; if you were not you’d end up flailing your hands around in vain and hoping after hopes for a streak of illumination. Suddenly, a match would be struck in air, a candle contrived out of nowhere and lit to catch red-handed your bamboozled expression amidst roars of laughter!

It was a common joke, or more respectfully speaking, practice, in our family to sing along “Aayega aane wala”, unforgettably Madhubala-esque style, followed by Waheeda’s goose bumpy “kahin deep jale kahin dil” with a spooky ooooooooooooooooooo Lata-lilt trailing the number, whosoever lit the candle first during the nightly load shedding ritual.

Well, candles came in handy in other times for other purposes as well. When a pin point had to be burnt to sterilize before needling into the skin to scoop out foreign flakes irritating the fingers, toes or heels!  Today, for the littlest discomfort we prefer to rush to the nearest state-of-the-art nursing home or hospital.

As a child, I would love to watch a burning candle – how the molten wax, colourless and liquefied, collected in the hollow around the wick before percolating down drip by drip, sliding along the sides of the slender, tubular block of wax, cooling and solidifying as instantly into thin strips of stalactite-stalagmite like structures while stoically clinging to the length of the candle. Later, fingers would find great fun in breaking these outgrowths off the candle stick like crunches of crisply fried chips. The wax stuck to the fingers for long softening the tips into creamy mounds.

Candles were crucial in those cursed hours of lengthy black-outs too when the sovereignty of the State was under severe jeopardy. Yes! The 1970s!! We have seen those days of hushed worried tones, brazen black marketeering and an economy tottering on cracked heels.

Those were days of plethora of inconveniences and lack of information. Yet, we enjoyed a kind of loving protection within the folds of close-knit as well as extended family and kinship. Since then times have changed with a fierce rapidity. With the easy accessibility and proliferation of modern amenities, candles have been declared outmoded and bowed out of city life except to be used peripherally for lighting a diya in the temple or a cracker during Diwali. Paying heed to the call of time, the candle-makers beat a hasty retreat. However, in remote backwaters, where the agencies of governance have not firmed their political will towards electrification, candles, I suppose, are still very much a way of life.

Candles have lit peaceful processions of protest. Candles have been lit in tribute to the Forces who secure our borders from enemy insurgents. Candles have been lit in memories of martyrs who have laid down their lives for monumental causes and safeguard of rich legacies for posterity. Yes! Candles have maintained time and historicity. Much as Civilization is on a roll-back always. The cyclic order of birth-growth-flourish-decay-death unfailingly perpetuate. There are enough chances that sooner than later, we may regress back in time to the primitive state of nature – the jungle culture – as an aftermath to a rotten end! More so, as the country is endangered by its own men – the hoodlums anchored on political backing, patricians engrossed in selfish pursuits within the enclosed insulation of their ivory towers and pedophiles on a rampage raping five year olds with candles and plastic bottles; the chandler, once thrown out of business, may again be reinstated back with unexpected preoccupation but this time with a difference. Candles, the harmless time-keeper of the past, having now replaced deadlier instruments of oppression and torture with equal ferocity and savagery!

Disturbed I fold back the newspaper. Rinky, till now lying comfortably next to my feet, look up with questioning eyes. On an impulse, I draw her in a tight hug. Eventide, the streets would soon be deserted, mothers pulling back  their daughters behind filigreed curtains as in ancient ages, girl-children disallowed outside the threshold of their hearths, unsure whether the man next door pecked their daughters’ cheeks with genuine fondness or fondled bestial motives on the secret. The beast on the prowl may have layers to him – an external visage of care and concern masking the murkier mala fide intents hidden thereunder.  Who knows? Thus brews and breeds an air of distrust and doubt pervading the populace – a potent destroyer of the species – more lethal than a nuclear explosive.

While innocence lies lacerated in a hospital bed battling with death what does she have to look forward to but a traumatized future? After more than six decades of independence, the light has really gone out. We have snuffed out the candles with the crook of our palms, once a pet childhood game giving way to a regrettable certitude of hopelessness and faithlessness. The clipped wick has doused the city in shame leaving behind licking flames of horrified protest   And however hard the law enforcers try to slap blankets over the leaping tongs of fire, the blistering blaze may soon devour the sleepy citadels of power and bring the roof down in no time.

Hope is an undying motivator. Cynics may implore us to see reason and understand the pluralist legacy of vote bank based politics. Notwithstanding, the intense love for our motherland would like to see the candle turn into a blazing torch igniting a horizon with expandable boundaries and not get stranded in a time warp.

Till then a bud nipped at its nascence wilts on a pristine sheet of clinical umbrage.

And we mourn a loss greater than that of life!!!!

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About gc1963

A working woman with interests in reading, writing, music, poetry and fine arts.

34 responses »

  1. Beautiful! Loved the way you used the metaphor of the candle here. Even I was quite disturbed by that whole incident. You now, the Navratri had just ended a few days back where we could see the girl child being worshipped as an incarnation of the Goddess. Even in Durga Puja, for that matter, Kumari Puja is a ritual. But how ironical it becomes, when the same girl child is most unsafe and vulnerable in our society. How ironically worship and violation get juxtaposed! Something indeed is rotten!

    I often wonder why such things happen. Is it because of the way gender relations are structured in our society? Is it because of how over the ages society has created the illusion that men are the ones who are to dominate? Is it a class issue or is there a deeper psychological crisis? It’s shameful when they act more bestial than the animals themselves!

    Thanks for sharing…

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    • Deeptangshu, we seem to be the last of our breed who still retain the capacity to be disturbed by atrocities that abound. Most seem to be going about their affairs as usual. The pictures on Google of this shocking incident is so heartrending ! I think the greatest punishment for the criminal should be not to give him an opportunity of self defence in any form. I know human rights activists will be appalled at my suggestion but such crimes do not leave any scope for compassion.

      With a heavy heart!!!

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      • I agree with you completely.. Otherwise, there is no other way to tackle these criminals. I don’t think they would ever change for the better even if they are given a chance.

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      • Deeptangshu, I have heard the pilot who bombed Nagasaki and Hiroshima went raving mad later in life after perhaps he could gauge the enormity of devastation that he had brought about on that fateful day. In a delirious state of mind, he kept on mumbling to himself “I forgot the children…I forgot the children…” Today I’d say a so called sane society has forgotten its children…!!! We who take pride in the India shining are heading relentlessly towards self inflicted doom

        Liked by 1 person

  2. My Say says:

    indeed as rightly said the Candles and the narration around it excited, thrilled , informed and saddened me as a reader.Makes me uncomfortable honestly even reading about or watching the news channels and trust me , I have not checked any news site .. since the horrifying thing has become the Breaking News.. feels like … puking !! I have tried avoiding all the posts of fellow bloggers on the incident all this while.
    feels helpless and weak to claim to be a part of a society which has demons of this caliber… a country where the demons can do Talibanism and the victims are expected to be law abiding. Where initiatives by increasing police patrol and moral policing are the only solutions left ! Demon is inside … us !! Kill it with fear in Talibani way or let it die when we are infants .. teach us why are we human before u teach us .. maths and science and put us into the race of academics!
    There is fixed trend … since the last two incidents in Delhi- the demons drank liquor and they were not literates !! Kill these two things – I love drinking but still i promote a total ban from the country which does not have the mannerism in which it is supposed to be consumed (if at all).. the biggest of a literate and gyani becomes a hooligan .. should we think twice before banning this billion dollar tax generating business? why not ?? we need to make sure this business never stops !! everyone is happy so why protest ? govt and Mangoes everyone !!
    Secondly ,we fight in the name of temples , gurudwaras and mosques … spiritual awareness can be inculcated from the religious institutions … everyone is responsible .. all of us .. why protesting against our own demons !! any of us can be them … if liquor continues to flow while spiritual awareness is criticized.. if academics continue to be the source of money generation more than anything else . I pity myself coz just by changing my thoughts and deeds I am unable to change the land i proudly call my country !! 😦

    Liked by 1 person

    • gc1963 says:

      “…*a country where the demons can do Talibanism and the victims are expected to be law abiding*” Well said and very true. A bleak picture of the present and the future.

      “…*teach us why are we human before u teach us .. maths and science* …” This is the call of the day.

      Education should lead us to enlightenment and not just to shoulder the burden of paper degrees.

      You are right when you say why blame society. If we are a part of it, we are all to be blamed.

      “*I pity myself coz just by changing my thoughts and deeds I am unable to change the land i proudly call my country* !! 😦 ”

      Change comes imperceptibly. I am sure if each one of us make conscious efforts to change ourselves and our approach a definite change in the systems and society is bound to take place.

      A thought germinates a revolution and it has already begun with you.

      Thanks for your impassioned views. Appreciate it very much!

      Regards

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      • My Say says:

        No contradictions and fact has to be accepted … only when I change will I notice the change that is taking place slowly yet very steadily around me .. restless, make these unwanted sacrifices without which there is no expectation of awakening !! Its like the Jalianwala Bagh Tragedy … It happened when 1000s got killed .. change happened decades after that but the fact is the kids and the women , the men who were not even asking for freedom ,probably had to sacrifice a precious thing called life … !!
        Whatever..I hope I see other mangoes waking up and stop living a -“Chalta Hai” life .. yes I am a little restless because I believe it is no theory that to learn cycling you ought to fall. In fact, never during my learning days of cycling ,I fell down just because of the mindset.

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      • gc1963 says:

        Well, there are two sides of the story. Once you are out on the street in a participative mode, you are like weed and anything can happen to you. Your invidual existence is nullified by the collective will. But wait, we are getting too abstract and philosophical and digressing from the issue. The only and only fact is that *the victimizer here calls for stringent punishment so that it sets an example for posterity*.

        “Chalta Hai” attitude is *the* bane of our society*.* Sometimes I feel it is *our diversity that dissipates integrity*.

        No, the falling is metaphorical. You got to make mistakes to *learn*. As long as we don’t repeat them its okay commiting mistakes…a part of the learning process but here the issue is do we ignore the enormity of the massacre because it is just *one child* out of the million and that too belonging to humble antecedents or is it *one crazed mind* that has come to limelight caught in the act? There may be many more and the papers are ranting about them. Where is the instrument of law to safeguard our right to a healthy and unhindered personal growth? Our right to life?

        With regard to change, when I said imperceptible I meant in small measures which cumulate up to a large shift and one fine morning the magnitude dawns upon us. Just like our Struggle for Freedom as you rightly pointed out…years of struggle in small quantums leading to a vast movement and change evident in our country’s independence. But have we really done justice to that independence? Are we really the rightful successors to be enjoying that freedom which consolidated this vast nation under one umbrella of non-violent satyagraha?

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      • My Say says:

        Independence to more than 70% of the nation was gifted by the 20% of Gandhians … and the British which had lost finances in two major wars …had to leave !!
        And as easily the majority has got it … thats the reason none respect it .. Had it been Netaji’s way, after shedding our blood out .. independence would not have been so cheaply sold through out the country !!

        On the issue… I will tell u …I am feeling more restless than the 16th dec incident .. so much that all the humour inside has given up and wants to come out an individual who can treat animals like animals right away … wish i were a Super Human for today … to treat the animals accordingly ..

        Like

      • Your comment reminded me of the Death Eaters…those who suck away all sunshine, happiness, hope and life….we are living in a country of Death Eaters…most unfortunate. Reality saps the charisma out of a fictional Spider Man and what remains is utter helplessness. And it is this helplessness which spurs vengeance and an overwhelming desire to strike back…but no need to go overboard and jump into the fray…kanoon ko haath mein mat lo…thanda hau botsho! I understand your extreme irritation with the system gone awry but don’t let your humour die down…that is suicidal…Rage is a potent driving force but it can also be devastative and self-destructive. In battling the Death Eaters do not fall prey to their devilish charm and become a Death Eater yourself. We have to battle and voice our dissension at the same time maintain our individuality and goodness….it is so difficult to retain your ‘you’ in this mess…My Say!!!

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      • On the aside, I agree with what you said about Netaji’s ways…anything hard earned is always well-retained…

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      • On a second thought I think you can utilize this boiling rage and disgust inside you in a more creative way and lash back using the weaponry with which you are so ‘gifted’ …your doodle and toons ….a mock can create a havoc and blow the breeze amuck, you know!!!!

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  3. umashankar says:

    I was coolly enjoying the vivid tribute to candles when you ushered in the forces of darkness like a bolt. You have said it all and so much more, whatever there was to say of candles and its lethal enemies. It is a beauty how you have turned the subject of your essay into a motif of rape and ravaging innocent buds, and the helplessness of the trembling mothers. Hats off to you!

    Like

    • The bolt out of the blue was a deliberate attempt to make home how a harmless object of domestic use can become a lethal instrument of ravage and repression, courtesy, thoughtless and perverse human indulgence. I will not say thanks to the words of praise showered on my essay because that is not the intent of this post. I simply want the decision makers to understand the import of an incident, which may be one amongst many, and therefore prone to being simplified if not overlooked. We cannot forget our children, can we? If we do, we are destined to be doomed as a specie, as a civilization.

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  4. jmathur says:

    Geeta Ji,

    Suprabhaat.

    Since I love candles (having been in love with them since my childhood) and still they are lighted in my home whenever there’s load-shedding (a recurring phenomena here) in the area, I had to go through your article with utmost attention and try to grasp the deep and subtle meanings of the words penned down by you. Since I love to light candles in churches too, I pray to Lord that the candle of conscience is lit within everyone. Since the frequency of the undesirable happenings is increasing only with the reaction of the people towards the system, the only thing that the right thinking ones can do is to infuse virtues in the young ones and build good character in them. I have always stressed through different means of expression the same only which I feel, is the only panacea for crime and evil. The government will always come out with regressive and deficient laws just to calm down the protesters (as is the case with the law recently enacted in this context) because the people at the helm are not interested in any kind of cure on one hand and the law-enforcing agencies are always interested in warming their pockets and catering to their own beastly instincts by victimizing the caught ones. In any upheaval or mass-scale event with a negative tinge, the women only become the biggest sufferers because the biological vulnerability against the males. All the solutions proposed and propagated in this regard that I have come across appear to me as superficial and emerging out of some rhetoric or emotional reaction. The correct one is the one that mentioned above – ‘Let the generation next have a good character, let it grasp the noble and pious traits so that it can abstain from wrongdoings when grown-up and in order to infuse the desirable things into their personalities, let’s infuse them in our own personalities first’. Everyone seems to be willing to preach others with very few, indeed very very few, being interested in introspection and self-improvement. When the collective psyche of the society is corrupt and lusty, how can its womenfolk be protected ? Mothers are concerned about the security of their daughters but how man mothers are concerned about the character of their sons ? Let everyone light a candle within him / her as Buddha asserted – Appa Deepo Bhav (be your own lamp).

    Regards.

    Jitendra Mathur

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    • Mathur Sahab, in our times schools had a discipline called Moral Science. We had regular classes on this subject. Today it is no more to be found as a part of the syllabus. Earlier we had the institution of joint family wherein the elderly people would tutor the children personally to behave and talk and act in a certain manner in keeping with the norms and value system of the family. With changing times, joint families have disintegrated into nuclear families. The working parents do not have that much time to devote to their children. They have replaced their love with Computer Games, Internet and Play Stations. Internet has its own advantages and disadvantages. While it disseminates information which was earlier restricted to a few privileged, it also provides unwarranted exposure. Nowadays, parents invest in making their children career oriented which means opting for a career which can bring in the maximum monetary benefit. The subjects under Humanities are considered unprofitable and useless. We forget that it is literature which helps inculcate the softer values and civic senses in the next generation. Moreover, in a society dominated by consumerism, everything is saleable and resaleable – be it material objects or human lives. We are always in the bargaining mode for the best barter. Globalization has brought with itself the best and the worst from other cultures. Intermingling of culture has led to broadening of horizon in every sense of the term. Not to say perversion did not exist in our society. It has always existed but not flourished because social control was high. Now with the concept of laissez faire pervading all aspects, strata and perspectives of people, there is a loosening of ethical hold on the minds. The encroaching urbanization is destroying pastoral life. The migration of people from villages to the city is bringing in cheap labour. Sudden exposure to the banes of a growing westernized culture has led men and women to adopt ways and lifestyles which border on blind imitation without understanding its negative implications. And above all, the hunger for more and more, in terms of material commodities, is making us psychologically restless, insatiable and primordial. Where will character building come from? Everybody is now talking about teaching the art of self defence to children from the very level of nursery which implies that the child will grow up with the feeling that he/she is not surrounded by friends but enemies and a heightened instinct of survival. Can you imagine what that will lead them to?

      Liked by 1 person

  5. magiceye says:

    Wow! That was absolutely brilliant! An ode to the humble candle and a sigh for the state of affairs that willingly might just snuff out precious lives.
    Loved the narration!

    Like

  6. You are right Geeta Ji. This status of things is very unfortunate but what’s the cure ? The cure is to inculcate character and good virtues only in the young ones if not through any syllabus or the elderly people available there, then through the parents themselves, considering it a necessity demanding attention and significance. If something is to be done, it’s this one only. Nothing else. Necessity is the mother of invention. Here the desired thing is not to be invented, it’s to be practised only. And if it is given importance by the families, then the parents can always find time for that even when they are too busy with their working life / otherwise. The first and the foremost thing is to identify the need. The beastly incidents taking place every now and then should instigate the people for that. Still if the need for good character of the young ones and the infusion of the noble traits in them is not identified, then there is no way out of this dark tunnel of hopelessness and insecurity. When we need something, we only have to generate it. The angels won’t alight on the Earth to do it for us.

    Regards.

    Jitendra Mathur

    Like

    • I agree Mathur Sahab that parents should take up the responsibility of moral tutelage but nuclear family being the smallest unit of the social set up a larger or let’s say an all-pervasive mechanism or atmosphere is necessary wherein the parental guidance will be sustainable. Otherwise, either the ethically strong mind will be unable to survive amidst malfunctioning systems or shall give in to it. Both are options undesirable…Therefore it is the State or the central agency of governance which should take up the cudgels of building stronger society wherein values and principles are given prime importance or made an essential part of the larger socio-cultural ethos. We Indians as a race lack the fundamentality of ethics in our racial genes. Unfortunately, it has to be imposed by an external authority and does not spring from within as in the Japanese whose patriotism, hard work, dedication, discipline etc. are popular traits which have gone a long way to building a stronger and exemplary nation.

      Like

  7. malinymohan says:

    The first part of the post carried me way back to my childhood days and the load shedding scenario that used to be the norm then. Similar to you, we had quite a happening half an hour those days with us kids engaging in board games or something as simple as a stroll outside, blabbering whatever that had happened during school and the grown ups would sit discussing politics and similar stuff. It is indeed sad that the candles have these days transformed to be symbolic of a much deplorable state of humanity. Ley us hope that peace prevail and things change for the better.

    I am amazed by your hold on the language ma’m, every time i read you!

    Like

    • Yes, those long walks surely were most enjoyable. But when we were young the city was not so safe and social life would remain confined within the household mostly. Blabbering with friends, yes, that goes with youth full of dreams and enthue. Well it is with this particular incident that candles, the most innocuous of objects, have come to be a symbol so formidable and disgusting. It is the use that a commodity is put to that defines its merits and demerits. Now, whenever I shall lit a candle I’ll remember this mishap. However, viewed in a detached manner, the candle as such does not lose its purity per se by the act. It is still as harmless as ever but it is its association with such a heinous crime and the knowledge that it can be put to such lowly end which has attached a smear of reproach to it. Poor candle!

      Maliny your appreciation means a lot to me!

      Like

  8. Geetaji, the candle has stood for a number of good things, and suddenly, it has become an instrument……to torture innocence…..God knows where this country is going. But you have nicely depicted the shame – through the light of the flickering candle…..

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  9. Jyoti Mishra says:

    I liked your plunge in the past and then you brought me in the present and its hars realities..

    a very lovely space u have..
    looking forward to read more !!

    Like

  10. Rajesh says:

    Good one, reminded me of my childhood days.

    Like

  11. anupam reddy says:

    a very good one….!!!!

    left some thoughts in my mind. made me think of it….!!!!!

    Like

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