A Very Sivakasi Diwali

At twelve
Debi has been through a rigorous test.
No, not for that reputed, prestigious public school
but at his employer’s behest.
He is tiny, yes,
but his supple arms and nimble fingers
have been assessed
and have passed the test.
Debi’s parents are happy but tense;
their face like the autumn sky,
overcast one moment, bright the next.

This year, when Sivakasi’s cauldron bubbles with crackers,
their son too would leave for work in full swagger.
Debi is from Sivakasi,
a mofussil town
that wears the ‘crackers crown’.
Every year when Diwali approaches,
this dot in the hinterland
is abuzz with commotion
giving its dwellers, a choice, an option –
to get to eat enough rice
even though it could be at the cost of getting scarred for life.
In this survival versus disaster battle,
Sivakasi settles for survival.

It is a stark tale
but startlingly real
It happens from year to year.

Sangeeta Kampani, 62, worked with the IRS and retired as a Commissioner of Income Tax, Delhi.

Featured image credit: Reuters