For the last decade, Delhi-based Shilpa Sharma has been observing a quiet Diwali. It’s a conscious choice on Sharma’s part and quite contradictory considering the affinity the capital seems to have towards firecrackers during the festive season. The co-founder, head of curation and retail at Jaypore, an e-commerce platform that offers apparel, jewellery, home decor and handicraft, admits that her austere approach to the festival is a “very stage of life thing".

An empty nester, Sharma does a small puja (prayer), lights diyas, does some floral decorations and she’s done. “For the most part, I am sitting at home with my dog, who is a nervous wreck. I give off to all the domestic help for two days to enjoy. I don’t have any plans," she says. Sharma also doesn’t go visiting and playing cards, doesn’t buy new clothes for the festivity, and follows a no gifts policy with her family. “I used to play teen patti (a card game) like there is no tomorrow, two weeks leading up to Diwali. As you grow older, you also wake up to the fact that all of this is just tamasha (a show) and an opportunity to party. I am done with all that," she adds.

Celebration time

As low-key as it is at her home, the scene at the office is the opposite. The mood is very vibrant with various employee engagement activities that create a festive spirit. “We spend most of our day at our workplace, and don’t want people (employees) to feel that festivals come and go. A whole lot of youngsters stay away from their home towns and only get the opportunity to go home for a day or two around Diwali," she says.

Hence, Sharma is mindful of people putting in leave requests around this time.

The idea is to bring in a little bit of the Diwali fun, which lifts everyone’s mood at the workplace. It’s also an opportunity for teams to bond with each other, especially getting to know the new recruits, she adds. Obviously, the festive ambience gets translated on their website too.

All this definitely comes as a breather after a hectic work schedule, a month before the festivities start. “A bulk of our season for shopping (by customers) happens almost a month before Diwali (on the portal). So, we at Jaypore, need to plan much in advance (almost six months earlier)," points out Sharma.

Only sweets, no gifts

Photo: iStock
Photo: iStock

Although Sharma may follow a no-gift policy with her family members, at work, sweet boxes are distributed to everyone. But in that she follows a very equalitarian approach. “Everybody across levels, right from the promoters to the watchman, will get the same sweet box. Also, we have no gifting policy between vendors and service providers. Nobody gets to take personal gifts home," she says.

Childhood memories

Growing up in a large joint family, Diwali was a huge affair at Sharma’s home. “The extended family met in someone’s home and since our home was bigger, it could accommodate many more people. For three days, there were people coming and going, there were the big meals and so much firecrackers. And then there would be card parties, where the menfolk played with very high stakes, but the womenfolk would have more fun with lower stakes," she says.

Over the years, the exuberance has reduced. “Now, given an opportunity, most people want to pack their bags and go off on a vacation to a quiet place so that they don’t have to bother with the noise and pollution, and trying to get the kids to become more mindful of wasteful consumption. My son stopped bursting crackers when he was 11. There is a certain responsibility we have to the surroundings, and surely there are better ways and means of celebrating a festival without indulging in wasteful expenditure," she says.

Photo: iStock
Photo: iStock

On her wish list

Sharma wishes people would spend the money they do on crackers and food more meaningfully, like for feeding people. In other words, instead of lavishly purchasing gifts, crackers and sweets, she believes, it’s time to be mindful and spend that money on charity.

Festival Spirit at Work is a series that looks at how CEOs spend Diwali at office and outside it.

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