Another Diwali has come and gone. The desi stores of Artesia’s Little India were busy as usual this year. Sweets and savories were flying off the shelves at my favorite desi restaurant. I don’t do gold, but I suspect the many jewelry stores did brisk business as well. The next surge will be around Christmas.
At another end of my social spectrum a couple of non-desi friends were going through the arduous job of decluttering their homes. One was inspired by all the time, money and muscle-power she spent sorting and schlepping stuff for an invalid relative up in NorCal. Must have been quite a job since it took several trips. Both friends tell me with glowing smiles and a lilt in their voices about all the stuff they’ve unloaded.
They remind me of the time I helped my father sort through his home after my mother’s death. It, too, was quite a job. Over my 3-month stay we went through papers, clothes, dishes, photos and many more accruements of 45 years of home-making. Dad and I even had a small bonfire in his backyard. Heaps of dead paper reduced to ashes as we watched the flames.
How cleansing and lightening it felt. Weight off Dad’s old shoulders! Not to say the easing of cognitive overload on Dad’s aging senses.
Well, that bonfire was more than a decade ago. But the lightness of that feeling is still fresh in my memory. It inspires me to keep a sharp eye on my own stuff. So, OK, I am an empty-nester and my 2Bed2Bath condo sets real limits on what I get to keep, buy or give a pass on. Inside home or outside in the markets, a part of me questions: What stays? What goes? What do I kick out if I bring this in? Earlier, gift-giving and gift-taking was a sweet part of my life. Now, I think twice. Earlier I bought books on a whim. Now I question myself. Granted my bookshelves have some unused space, so do I really want that book? Really, really want it? Want and Need, Beauty and Clutter, they battle it out in my head and heart.
Each Diwali, Lakshmi is propitiated and asked to bless our homes and businesses. She
is Vishnu’s consort and helps him in upholding dharma. She is, of course, the goddess of prosperity. Now I am beginning to see her in the small things around me.
I wonder if one way to honor Lakshmi is to get rid of stuff we don’t need. And, as well, to not burden another by giving needless gifts. I wonder if it isn’t a better gift to help another declutter. A new set of discerning eyes and helping hands may just be what an invalid friend or an aging parent needs. And yes, maybe even your perfectly healthy
adult child doing a relocation.
All this ties in with the idea of the fully lived life per the Hindu worldview: the last two ashrama’s of vaanaprashta (forest-dweller) and sannyasa (renunciate). Yes, we don’t
leave our homes to dwell in forests nor give up everything and wear the saffron robes
any more. I wonder if many ever did. Yet one small way to observe the intent of this
worldview is to let go of stuff that has lived out its usefulness.
Dad and I felt Lakshmi’s divine blessings way back that year when mom died and he
entered the third ashrama. That year, being a year of mourning, he did not celebrate
Diwali. The only lighted lamp that graced Dad’s veranda was the one where Mom’s inert body had laid.
As we bid goodbye, all he said was a cryptic, “Thanks, Amma.” But the gratitude in his eyes as they swept his re-ordered home spoke volumes to me. Prosperity, order and
cognitive-comfort are incontrovertibly related to the things in our lives. So, too, it seems is Lakshmi’s presence in Diwali, dharma and decluttering.
Mala Setty writes from the second bedroom of her 2Bed2Bath condo in Long Beach.