Thursday, October 27, 2011

Diwali - A Change in Perspective

This Diwali was undoubtedly the nosiest I have ever been through in my life. I seriously feared for my ear drums as some 'bombs' went off, reverberating painfully as they took off in a series. Some were so loud that one could feel the building vibrate and drowned all conversation even if one shouted loud. Some were so long that they went on and on until little children cried and ran inside and older people stopped their celebrations and went inside prematurely, shocked by the attack. The pollution was so thick that I found myself coughing every now and then and we could not see the sky anyway. The richer the person the bigger the sound, the more their friends, the later their celebration. I could hear people bursting loud crackers right till well past 1 a.m.

The amount of pollution - noise and air - is to be seen to be believed. The arrogance and swagger of some of the moneyed is to be seen to be believed. It is not young adolescents but grown people who seem to get into a competition to burst these crackers, to show the others how loudly they can celebrate, and that grates. There is almost no concern for the traffic as everything goes off without warning. Similarly the traffic also has no concern for little children who might be running about as it whizzes past. There was no elegance, no humility. Just raw arrogance as people burned, blew up their money in some wild bacchanalian celebration as if they had achieved something big.

For one, the festive spirit needs a relook. I did not see a single neighbour or stranger wishing the other on the Diwali occasion. It was more as a competition. Even people who lived in the same flats went about with their own groups instead of celebrating. I saw very few letting young ones enjoy - this festival is not for the young - in fact it is to terrify the young. Families overindulged in their food and sweets. The rare house had the diyas or deepams. Most made do with the minimum and some did not even bother. It is about big, about power. One could see the poor children watching as they went by - fireworks are expensive.

For the poor and hungry this might be a cruel joke as people willingly blow up money on firecrackers that would feed them. Some of those long, loud ones can feed a whole family. I am not about stopping the celebrations - just about getting the perspective back into festivals. Bring back the elegance, the spirit of festivity. Make new friends, wish them a happy year, spend a little less on polluting items and perhaps use that money for better causes. Step back a bit. Use less noisy options, less polluting options - I still don't see anyone selling stuff that is less polluting. Light the diyas, make only as much trash as you can clear (ha, that will make everyone sit up and think!), be considerate to yourself, your neighbours and the environment. Goddess Lakshmi won't come merely because you blasted more firecrackers.

We live in a hypocritical society in many ways. On one hand everybody seems very concerned about the environment and pollution etc and then they come and do this. I am sure figures will back me but last night was one of the noisiest and most polluting in recent years in Hyderabad. Perhaps the time has come to have fireworks limited to public places where people can go and watch. Things of beauty and safety, things that don't jar and scare, things that enhance the spirit of the festival, things that include everyone from the youngest to the oldest. One can see the fireworks in public places in their localities, go back home, light their diyas and burn their sparklers, speak to one another in peace, share the good and the food. And not simply stuff oneself as one can see, to a point of bursting.

I for one have decided that Diwali from next year will be about diyas, meeting and
greeting family, neighbours (not simply sending long and bulky sms'es), a few sparklers and some sharing.

Happy Diwali!


Raghu said...

I agree Hari that we should have fireworks only in public places. In most states, in the USA, fireworks are banned in residential neighborhoods. They are allowed in open places, with fire fighting personnel and ambulances waiting nearby. We have fire works at the temple and the Indian community goes to the temple to view them.

Harimohan said...

Fireworks in a public place is a distant dream yet but I really like the idea in terms of safety, eco friendliness and even beauty. But the good news is that overall the fireworks have apparently reduced as per the reports in the news today. Maybe there is a movement to celebrate the festival in a pollution friendly, community friendly manner.