Friday, November 16, 2012

Hindu Feast of Lights [Diwali] on November 13th

The Hindu Feast of Diwali on November 13th was recalled to me when my wife asked why her Indian doctor was out of office for a religious feast. I said immediately, the Feast of Lights, which flashback came to mind about the time I was flying from Jidda to Jakarta in November, 1977. I looked out the window as we were about halfway there at about midnight and saw the incredible sight of hundreds of million fires lighting up the entire huge nation of India, from coast to coast. It took us a half hour to fly across the country and I was mesmerized completely by the totally unanticipated mind-blowing sight.

I asked the Dutch pilots of Martinair what was going on and I recall their own puzzlement---easy to understand because I'm sure this was the first time they'd flown over India on this particular date [they were flying an empty aircraft which had deplaned Muslim pilgrims that year in Jidda. There were hundreds of flies which had made the round-trip journey from Jakarta to Jidda and then vice-versa!]

Flying back to Saudi, I sat in the pilots' cabin and when we were flying over Sri Lanka further south, they had many stories of where planes had crashed in the forties and fifties in the jungles---a couple had been found only with great difficulty. It turned out Martinair had been flying these routes to and from Jidda for decades ever since long-distance flying from the Dutch East Indies was inaugurated for the yearly Pilgrimage. The reason these pilots had never seen nor heard of the Diwali Festival is that the Muslim calendar is ruled by the moon and varies so much that year-by-year the Hajj starts on a different date and retrocedes by a couple of weeks at a time. Thus the last time the Hajj might have coincided roughly with the Feast of Lights might have been before the invention of aviation!!

I remember vividly while vacationing in the paradise of Bali at the Bali Hyatt [I kept remembering the 'Bali High' song from the Bob Hope movies of the forties] the visit of Anwar Sadat to Jerusalem on November 20th, 1977, thinking to myself that peace was breaking out as I was journeying in Paradise on Earth. [Hint. Hawaii is more beautiful by a tad, but Bali is more interesting by miles and miles.]

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