Next, the anticipation of going to the temple on the nearest weekend day convenient, kids excited over the round of sparklers handed out for them to hold, to be followed by a mini-fireworks in the sky display, dinner and a good Carnatic music concert by an ex-leading light performer.
Current Time : 5:34 pm
Location : Stuck in traffic on the parkway, with two lane closures ahead for the next 3 miles, approximately 1 hour away from getting to the temple. M was growing unhappier by the minute in her car seat, watching the minutes tick away on the clock. "Will we miss the sparklers?"
"Probably, though they might have delayed handing those out if the puja ran late" (The sparkler distribution was set for 5:00 to 5:30 pm.)
10 minutes later, we had moved approximately 200 yards. Still no hope of making it to the temple even in time for the big fireworks display (6:30 - 7:00) at this glacial pace.
"Why don't we just take the next exit and head back home?"
Sighing as my hopes for a festive evening out evaporated, I conceded that it made better sense to get off this highway to hell. The concert wasn't going to cut it as an evening's sole entertainment for anyone in the family but myself.
So it was, that another half an hour later, we all trooped in our Diwali finery (silk skirt and blouse for M, a favorite Kanjeevaram sari for me) into our local Pizza Hut for dinner. M happily divested herself of her jacket, unconscious of any stares, while I kept mine on, not wanting to reveal the bright yellow and green silk underneath. Not that munching on pizza and garlic toast compensated for missing the Diwali dinner at the temple, but at least the kids had a good time despite the outing gone bad.
A brief chat with an acquaintance at our local Sunday school, while the kids were busy with their lessons revealed a shocking piece of news. A police officer had stopped by a house in our township and threatened to cite them for arranging some sparkler fun during a Diwali party on their own property.
My first instinct was to question why we hadn't been censured when we did the same around the fourth of July- surely they could tolerate this minor fun, instead of ruining the holiday celebration. "We tried to explain about the festival, but the officer said it was illegal in Pennsylvania", said the lady.
Hmmm... so fireworks are illegal in Pennsylvania NOT !
According to a recent amendment to the Pennsylvania code, small hand-held novelties don't fall under the draconian codes restricting the possession and display of larger fireworks.
The term does not include devices as ground and hand-held sparkling devices, novelties and toy caps in APA Standard 87-1, the sale, possession and use of which shall be permitted at all times throughout this Commonwealth.
Great...so we now have local police officers who are not very well acquainted with the latest Pennsylvania law.
On the other hand, our township does have restrictive codes that demand 15 days advance application for permit to use even ground and hand-held sparkling devices, novelties and toy caps.
Next year, whether on 4th of July or Diwali, we'll be taking no chances. We'll make sure that we have our piece of paper to wave at any passing police officer, should some neighbor decide to complain.