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Monday, December 21, 2009

Lights On (or Off) Please!

Ours is the only house in the neighborhood without the mandatory Christmas lights strung around the outer contours. We put out assorted tacky stuff for Halloween because the kids have amassed quite a collection. But our 'celebration' of the spirit of the season is restricted to the indoors for other festivals.
Of late, the local display of lights hasn't been quite the same. The culprits are the new LED lights, ranging in color from an ice-cold white to a pestilential deep blue that annoys the senses much more than the old-fangled bulbs and faint yellow undertones of incandescents. These home-owners concur, and are persistent in their attempts to purchase and hoard the old-fashioned types before they are driven off the market by Global Warming Cap-and-Trade emissions agreements.
Which begs the question, why don't we put any lights at all? I could claim a sort of nostalgia for the flickering lights of candles and oil lamps, so much more nuanced, mysterious and beautiful than the unwinking glow of even incandescent bulbs. (The latest innovations at the local temples don't impress, falling as they do into the latter category. Maybe they will look even less appetizing when they make the switch to LED light bulbs.)Never mind the fire hazard.
In India, we used to set out the lamps for Karthigai, not Deepavali in our house. Deepavali was a time for new clothes, crackers and fireworks, but nothing more than a couple of lamps lit. Karthigai was the time when we had rows and rows of lit candles lining the terrace, clay and bronze oil lamps lined up in the front, near the door. Remnant fireworks from Deepavali marked the celebrities, which normally puzzled most of the neighbors who didn't follow our calendar.
But best of all, in my opinion, is the shimmering glow of the moonlight, especially after a fresh snow, when the whole landscape lights up with the reflections. The simple darkness that allows the stars to blaze in all their brilliance, undimmed by the lights of a thousand urban streetlights.
Of late, I've become hypersensitive to the slightest glimmer of light as I fall asleep, surrounded as I am by a gazillion gadgets winking and blinking in red, green and blue. I would use an eye mask to block them out, but it can get claustrophobic under one. Oh, for the soft velvety darkness that cradles me to sleep, circadian rhythms unchanged from a million years of evolution!

2 comments:

kochuthresiamma p .j said...

karthikai - sigh- nostalgia. i left trivandrum just after karthigai. many houses were lit up by rows of diyas. the apartment where we stay too had more than hundred kept in row after row.
yes. you are right. nothing to beat their charm. sigh!

Sujatha said...

You must have lived near a part of town where there were several Tamilians, I guess!
Don't you put up the traditional paper star for Christmas? I love those too, though they aren't in vogue that much these days. I guess the light strings may have taken over from the single star fixed over the garage light bulb fixture.
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, Kochuthresiamma