Diwali is the festival of lights that has been made more fun, beautiful, wholesome and spiritual by our dear Swami through the manner in which He celebrates it. Of course, the firecrackers and lamps are all there. But the light and sound are not confined to the physical realms alone as Swami also lights hearts and warms them! In the early years of the University, Baba would Himself light firecrackers which would bring great delight to the hundreds of devotees and children assembled on the sands.
By the late 1990s, it would be only the students lighting the firecrackers in Swami’s presence. The practice of Swami lighting fireworks had almost been discontinued. Yet, all the students would goad and coax Swami to participate. On some occasions, He would yield, lighting a sparkler or two but the students always wanted Him to be more ‘involved’. So, every year, a garland or mala cracker (shaped like a garland but instead of flowers the string is strung with thousands of small firecrackers which burst continuously when lit) would be suspended far away. Swami would throw a switch that would ignite the mala. Then, for the next 3-4 minutes, a fireworks explosion would take place.
Swami too was happy and excited about throwing the switch. This particular year, 1998 or 1999, the ‘switch’ had been built into a ‘card’. The ‘card’ was a piece of thermocol sculpture which opened like an oyster. Inside was the switch. When Swami saw this, He felt so happy. He called one of the devotees nearby and explained how He would be throwing the switch and how the opening ceremony would be a 10,000-mala. He did the explanation in a very animated manner - pointing out to the garland, the switch and almost performing the action of throwing the switch.
Now, just in case the switch failed, a boy had been hidden in the lawns. He would have a backup switch to light the mala cracker. The instructions to Him were,
“In case Swami throws the switch and the fireworks do not get ignited, you turn on the backup switch and make it happen. As far as everyone is concerned, it will be Swami who lit it!”
This is where a comedy of errors took place. Swami was so animated in His imitation of what would happen while explaining to the devotee that the hidden boy on the lawns thought that though Swami had thrown the switch, the fireworks were not lighting. So, sincerely, he threw his switch and the fireworks began!
In the meanwhile, Swami had just turned His back to the devotee. He was surprised by the burst of crackers that began that He turned around to the devotee. He had a look of disappointment on His face and He said,
“I was supposed to ignite the fireworks! Why did you do it?”
“But Swami! It was not me”, the devotee protested.
“Then, how did the fireworks go off?” That was Swami’s question.
“Swami, I didn’t touch the switch…”
“Did I do it then? I just showed you how it is done and you went ahead, depriving me of my opportunity!”
Swami continued to ‘accuse’ the devotee of taking away His chance and moment of joy! The whole episode was so sweet and nice.