The Fire of Diwali

 /   /  By Emma Birches
Stone Soup Magazine
November/December 2015

Asha Baudart-Gehlawat
the fire of diwali girl candle

The candleholders were simply beautiful

A TRUE STORY

Kamina grinned. Finally, it was Diwali! She had been longing for this day since she had come with her family to her grandparents’ house, and now she could hardly wait to start the celebration! Diwali was an Indian holiday, celebrating the return of the prince Ram. The story was that Ram had been exiled from the kingdom to battle demons, and when he came back, the people of India lit candles to guide him home.

“Kamina, Kamina, where are you?” a familiar voice squealed. It was Liliana, or Lili, Kamina’s little sister. Kamina looked around for a place to hide. She spotted a tall tree, its branches easy to climb on but leafy enough so Liliana wouldn’t find her. Quickly, she grabbed the nearest branch and swung onto it, hooking her feet in the small crevices of the trunk. Soon, she had climbed on a branch where she could see Liliana but Liliana couldn’t see her.

“Kaminaaaaa! Where are youuuuuuuuu?” Liliana’s voice echoed up to the branch where Kamina was hiding. Kamina stifled a laugh. “Kamina, if you don’t come down now, we will prepare for Diwali wiwout you!” Kamina couldn’t help but notice that Liliana had pronounced “without” wrong. As much as Kamina liked to annoy her little sister, she did not want her family to prepare for Diwali without her. So, she climbed down, trying to stay out of Liliana’s eyesight. But, as soon as her feet touched the ground, Liliana yelled, “Found you!”

So much for sneaking away, thought Kamina, disappointed. But her disappointment flew away as she saw her dadi, the Indian word for grandma, taking out the boxes of beautiful candleholders. Her dadi handed her one of the boxes.

“Here,” she said, as Kamina took the box from her hands with the greatest care. “Put these on the porch for me, will you?” she asked.

“Of course, Dadi!” exclaimed Kamina, already heading towards the porch. Kamina carefully placed the box on the porch, then opened it to make sure none of the exquisite candleholders were broken. Kamina gasped. The candleholders were simply beautiful. Some were blue, some were green, some were so decorated they burned Kamina’s eyes! But if she was impressed by these, she was completely unprepared for the second box of candleholders her dadi gave her. Dashes of rainbow, sunlight, and joyful thoughts filled Kamina’s mind until she had to close the box. Skipping this time, she went back to her dadi to see if there were any more boxes to be carried.

“No, there are no more boxes to carry,” said her dadi when Kamina asked. “But,” she continued, seeing Kamina’s disappointed face, “you can help me clean the kitchen.”

“Uhhhh, no thanks, Dadi,” said Kamina. “No offense, but I’d rather be bored than clean the kitchen.”

Her dadi smiled. “Off you go then!” she replied.

Kamina ran into the house to find herself face-to-face with Liliana. Uh-oh, I better get out of here, thought Kamina, but it was too late. Kamina found herself playing dolls with Liliana.

A few hours later, Kamina’s dadi called them in her room. “I have a surprise for you girls!” she exclaimed. When they entered Dadi’s room, the first things Kamina saw were two gorgeous Indian dresses. “Do you like them?” asked Dadi, watching the girls’ reaction.

“Oh, Dadi, they’re wonderful!” exclaimed Kamina. “Are they for us?”

Their dadi smiled. “Do you think I would order dresses that small for me?”

Liliana squealed and picked up the smaller dress, one that was gold-embroidered with fiery-colored threads that shined. “Oh, thank you, Dadi!” she squeaked happily and ran to the bathroom to try on her new dress. Kamina stared at hers. It was the most beautiful piece of clothing she owned. Speechless, she carefully smoothed it out and hugged her dadi. Then she ran to the bathroom as well, to put it on.

A few minutes later, Kamina was staring at herself in the mirror. She looked amazing. The dress was black with golden stones and threads that brought out the golden highlights in her brown hair. She loved it. Soon, the family was almost done preparing. The fireworks were out, the food was almost cooked, everybody was dressed up, and Kamina’s dadi had taken out her camera, ready to take photos. Liliana was bouncing in excitement. To calm Liliana down, Kamina asked her if she wanted to play hide-and-seek. Liliana agreed, and soon Kamina found herself looking around the house for her annoying little sister. “Found you!” she exclaimed, as Liliana came out of a closet.

“Girls! Time to eat!” called Kamina’s mother. Sure enough, Kamina smelled the scent of spices floating through the air. She licked her lips and headed towards the dining room, where delicious-looking food awaited her. Kamina sat at the table, grabbed her fork, and dug in.

After the feast (which was as delicious as it smelled), Kamina and her family went outside to light the candles. Kamina and Liliana weren’t allowed to light any candles but they were allowed to watch. As Kamina’s uncle lit the last candle, there was a terrible scream. Kamina turned around and saw Liliana leaning over a candle, her bangs on fire. Kamina, not knowing what to do, also screamed. Her mother was racing towards Liliana, but Kamina’s grandpa, her dada, had gotten there first. He used his bare hands to pat out the fire as quickly as possible. Her dada was soon joined by Kamina’s mom, and soon they extinguished the fire. Kamina’s heart was racing. She was trembling in terror. As much as she thought Liliana was annoying, she was her sister, and she loved her very much. Kamina watched as her mom raced into the house with a crying, screaming Liliana in her arms. Quickly, Kamina raced after her. When she got there, her mother was pouring water on Liliana’s forehead. Kamina stared at the sink, where lay blackened bangs, crumbling as she touched them. Kamina looked up. Liliana wasn’t scarred, luckily, but there was a small red mark on her forehead. Still, it must have been terrifying for her. Sobbing, Kamina went out and stared at the sky, wondering how such a perfect holiday could have turned into a fiery disaster. Kamina sighed. She was about to go back in when she saw her mom coming out with Liliana.

“Should I… start the fireworks?” Kamina’s uncle asked uncertainly. Kamina’s mother nodded and went to sit down on a chair to watch the fireworks. Kamina hesitantly sat down next to her. BOOM! A flash of multicolored sparkles flew in the air as her uncle ran away from the firework. But Kamina wasn’t paying attention to the fireworks. The sound of Liliana’s scream kept repeating itself in her head. Kamina’s eyes became blurry as she stared blankly at the fireworks. Then she felt something on her lap. It was Liliana. Tears rolled onto Kamina’s cheeks as she realized how close her sister had come to the end of herself. Kamina hugged Liliana and together they stared at the night sky, which was now lit up with the colors of the rainbow, and at that moment Kamina felt a fierce pain in her chest and decided that, to her, nothing, nothing else mattered but her love for her little sister.

the fire of diwali Asha Baudart-Gehlawat,

Asha Baudart-Gehlawat, 10
Berkeley, California

The Fire of Diwali Sanjana Chimata

Sanjana Chimata, 12
Basking Ridge, New Jersey

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