As more Indians move to cities, become tech-savvy and upwardly mobile, so have the ways we celebrate festivals. Diwali has come to be characterised by high volume shopping both online and offline, gifting and bigger, noisier and brighter firecrackers resulting in problems that such increased spending brings. Vehicles are logging more miles while ferrying shoppers and delivering Diwali purchases/gifts, the already dirty air gets dirtier with the exponential rise in firecracker bursts and allergies, skin and respiratory problems have increased manifold. This dramatic increase in scale calls for a relook and qualitative change in how we celebrate as well.
With over-advertised offers from the Flipkarts, Amazons and Snapdeals of the world, we need to rethink this annual unboxing/shopping/gifting ritual and over-use of fireworks to show off our happiness. Apart from the harsh impact on air quality, Diwali has the salutary effect of papering over, even for just one day, the inequalities in income and wealth that mark our society. Festivals should be about joy, people coming together in celebration, and not about troubled breathing, and one-upmanship on how much money we can send up in smoke.
Air pollution from vehicles and burning chemicals in the air has reached levels that damage lungs and shorten lives. The noise pollution from the deafening sound of crackers going off in every nook and corner for hours on end creates extreme discomfort for the old, the infirm and animals/pets. Can we celebrate the festival of lights retaining it as a festival of joy without converting it into a public health issue?
One way could be community-based, rather than individual family focused celebrations. Instead of one family firing away crackers worth thousands of rupees, why doesn’t each family pledge to shoot just one rocket for prosperity, fire just one flowerpot for joy and blast just one ‘Bijli’ chain to get rid of negativity? We can all illuminate our homes with innumerable eco-friendly clay diyas and hang colorful lanterns instead of causing meaningless noise and air pollution.
In keeping with this sentiment, I’m happy to note that there is a “dhamaka” of a change this Diwali in Bangalore. In a drastic move to cut noise and air pollution, the Karnataka State Pollution Control Board (KSPCB) and the optimistic Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) have banned the bursting of noisy crackers in individual homes and on the streets in residential localities and designated public places where they can be burst as a community activity.
With each passing year, more people are making a conscious decision to celebrate an eco friendly Diwali. Many gated communities in India this year have especially come forward to enjoy the festival without causing damage to the environment – by celebrating Diwali with the sound of music, not crackers. In Coimbatore, at Covai Property Centre, a gated community dedicated for senior citizens, the residents have a proper plan in place to spend a noiseless Diwali evening on October 29th. The 130 families in the society will be spending the evening with music, karaoke, dance, games and a special dinner.
Diwali is not just a time when people clean, declutter, illuminate and decorate their homes. It can also be a time for reflection, a time to re-visit and judge impartially, ones thoughts, actions and words and to rid oneself of the darkness and negativity that dwells within.
As lamps and fireworks illuminate different corners of the globe this Diwali, I pray that the light brightens up not only your homes but also your hearts.
Have a sparkler of a Diwali!