Fest of lights reminds us that good always wins
DEEPAVALI is a Tamil portmanteau of deepa (clay lamps) and avali (in a row), rendered as ‘Festival of Lights’.
Hindus in India celebrate it for different reasons. In southern India, the festival celebrates the day Lord Krishna defeated the demon Narakasura.
To the north, it marks the return of Lord Rama from 14 years of exile to Ayodhya and after defeating Ravana. Villagers celebrated his return with his wife Seetha and brother Lakshman by lighting up clay lamps.
Deepavali is the faith that good will always triumph over evil, truth over falsehood, fairness over injustice.
It is the wordless hymn from our hearts when we see how frail our existence is but still pit light against darkness, knowledge against ignorance, hope against despair.
Since I joined The Star, I have seen, with tears of joy, many times when good outshines evil. I have seen impoverished families, babies with grave illnesses, long-lost family members and many more needful souls find hope, renewal and rescue after their situations were highlighted in our daily.
Their saviours were people with such empathy and compassion who will not stand by and let another suffer.
Recently, I visited a family in dire need after their Air Itam dwelling was repeatedly ravaged by floods.
Cleaner S. Jeyajothi and her family have been staying in a dilapidated two-bedroom house for the past four years. Whenever there is a downpour, water would quickly fill their house.
A permanent stain of murky yellow from laterite mud covered their mattresses and pillows, which are always on the floor.
They, of course, lay their bedding out in the sun to dry after a flood but sometimes, they would not get dry fast enough for the following night. So they had gotten used to sleeping on the dampness.
There were hardly any furniture. Anything made from chipboard had become swollen and warped long ago.
Many electrical appliances within reach of flash floods had shorted out and were thrown away long ago. I felt so relieved they still had a large television.
Jeyajothi’s children were playing on the floor when I walked in. Blessedly, they were still shielded by their innocence.
Their plight was answered quickly after we published their story. I received many emails from kind people asking for their contacts and whereabouts. Thank you.
Penang Hindu Association, which highlighted their plight, also got many calls. What made me even happier was when I heard them being interviewed on a Tamil radio station, and a philanthropist gave them financial aid while they were on the air.
That was just one small example; The Star has helped plenty more. But sometimes, it can seem that evil wins.
In Butterworth, cafe owner Lee Chee Chiang, 27, and his chicken rice shop neighbour Raymond Lee, 31, put a glass door ‘fridge for the poor’ on the five-foot way stocked daily with food for poor folk to eat for free. The needy have pride too, and it can be hard to stretch out your hand and ask for help when you have nothing to offer in return.
The fridge for the poor, which they called ‘Love and Hope Port’, let the poor take what they needed for themselves.
However, greedy people learned about the fridge in a month and frequently raided it bare. Finally, when it was locked, they smashed the glass door and looted it one last time.
Chee Chiang and Raymond have given up and will not replace the fridge. They will think of another way to feed the poor.
For every good soul in our midst, there will surely be evil ones. But this does not mean we should give up.
As the glow of our lamps dispels darkness on Oct 18, I hope all of humanity will uphold virtue, nobility and selflessness. Let us all make Deepavali a meaningful festival.