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Diwali Dhamaka

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I am sitting by the telly watching images of the country and Indians all over the world being swamped by the Deepawali fever. The festival of lights that is celebrated in India to mark the return of the crown prince Ram from fourteen years of exile is a beautiful and exciting time for most people. Indians and the ilk all over the world worship the goddess of Lakshmi on this day, play cards and invoke lady luck. Like most traditions in India, it takes on regional flavors from one place to another too.

 

The images I see on the TV however are, a juxtaposition of Deepavali and its favor as we understand it and so many others that have over the years become a part of the Diwali pandemonium. For some reason, I am reminded of one of the short films that Doordarshan (the premier television channel), would telecast in the 80’s. One such short film showed a confused animal who wants to imbibe different parts of different animals and ends up being a very confused creature. The comparison I think stems from the fact that the festival of lights (as Diwali is called) is replete with confusions both for generation past and future.

One wonders of course on a cynical note, how many remember that the festival is symbolic of throwing out the dark side of humans and bringing out the light within. One is also reminded of grannies saying that the bursting of crackers at this time of the year was good because it led to killing of several insects which made their appearance at this particular period. Mention this in today’s context and you would have environmentalists, screaming their lungs out on the need for insects to exist too (as they rightly should).

I wonder if more than anything else the Diwali dhamaka is a rather confused dhamaka. My child comes home from school and says, her school has instructed her not to buy sweets and crackers as sweets sold in the market at this time are contaminated and that the crackers would add to the pollution of an already polluted city. Accordingly I raise an eyebrow when I see a particular gent buying a suspiciously noisy cracker and perturbed by my rather silent violent reaction, he immediately drops the box and picks up a harmless looking small something. I am pleased and beam back
 
On a serious note the issues that have effectively smothered the dhamaka of Diwali range from – Sound pollution, Air pollution, Health hazards, exploitation of child labor and many more. And in so many ways these are justified, the horrible affects of pollution after a night of revelry with crackers is horrific, not only in terms of pollution which has already reached alarming levels in most Indian cities, but also where sound pollution is concerned. One is flummoxed, didn’t these issues exist earlier or were we just blind to them? A bit of both perhaps, but awareness levels regarding environment and celebration styles, thanks to Bollywood movies have come under scrutiny.

Most people in India have minimum respect for another’s discomfort and as such bans on crackers which create sound pollution, have very little affect on those who are lighting them. The state of animals and the old, even students who are appearing for exams and patients is horrifying to say the least. Under the circumstances one cannot but wish that Diwali were restricted to the peaceful lighting of lights and celebrations within the house without creating a racket that disturbs others. But we are Indians, we like to involve everyone in everything we do and make it a big street/colony/neighborhood party, and hey that’s a lot of fun too isn’t it?

Facebook users would tell you of pictures doing the rounds of children being exploited in small scale units making crackers by exposing them to great danger, especially where safety precautions are next to nil. Under these circumstances and so many more that one might not even be aware of, can the celebration of Deepawali really be a joyous one? I believe it can, and moderation is perhaps the name of the game. Teach your children and let them indulge in the harmless fun and celebrations that are safe and environment friendly, more importantly, spread the awareness of safety and anti-pollution facets first. In short enjoy Deepawali and let others enjoy it too.

Here’s to a safe, pollution free & beautiful festival of lights.

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