You know Diwali is near when the smell of sulphur permeates everything, and the nights are filled with shouts and noisy firecrackers. On the day before Diwali everything had already gone into high gear, even in a small town like Pondicherry. The kids on my street started off the festivities the first thing in the morning, and by now the combined effect of every family in the area doing the same filled the tar roads with the little red remains of the crackers, and made your eyes burn with the pollution. And I had to catch my flight to Mumbai, because spending Diwali with family is what you're supposed to do. Not that my boss had given me leave - no way. I just had to take my half day anyway. The non-ac rented car that drove me to the airport had seats filled with golden glitter. I brushed off as much as I could before getting comfortable. But the thing about glitter is that it sticks to your hands, and hides in seat corners in the most annoying way. Clearly the previous occupants of the car were really in a festive mood. The traffic was crazy, and the highway was bustling. Everybody who was anybody seemed to be on the roads, or in their cars going somewhere.
My flight was delayed by 3 hours, so that was a total of seven hours of waiting. The first four hours driving to the airport, and the next three waiting for my flight to start boarding. I waited patiently with the other commuters from my flight. Everyone eyed each other's bag tags, checking if we were all on the same flight. I watched as hundreds of people got into their flights before me. I passed the time by memorizing the ceiling, consuming my iPod's battery, wandering around Chennai airport, reading a book, and calling everyone I knew who would pick up the phone at that time.
Taking off was beautiful because we flew over the city lights at night, and the firecrackers were going off across the city. It was a breathtaking sight, we were flying over them as they exploded, and they seemed to be bursting in synchronization, in all colors, green, red, blue, and white; and those little plain ones too, the ones that go off without a shower of sparks.
All the business people seated around me on the flight were already asleep, uninterested in the view. I wanted to wake everyone up and show them what they were missing. When would you be flying over Chennai city on the night of Diwali next? But I didn't, and enjoyed the view on my own.