Agreeably it is not possible to entirely go green for Diwali but we can still try to reduce the noise pollution and air pollution, restricting the firecracker hours and volume literally and by quantum. The popular argument is that, Why cannot we switch off air conditioner in that case. Why not you sell your car and take public transport. Why is NYC lighting up for new year’s eve blah blah.
The fact is that, year after year we in India are doing worse,9 with air pollution reaching abnormally high levels. When Rama returned to Ayodha with Sita defeating Ravana in Sri Lanka, I don’t think the townspeople lit the Sivakasi pataka. For centuries, Hindus lit the organic and chemical free firecrackers in celebrations that were not environmentally hazardous. Now after seeing Delhi choking with blinding pollution, if the rest of the country still wants to carry on with this dynamite business, I do not know what to say.
Why should we be comparing ourselves with the Abrahamics. Let us each answer this question to ourselves: do we need this. Why this rush of affection for Sivakasi. We have outgrown so many industries in the past. It is time perhaps we wean out of this firecracker manufacture as well. Are we still stuck with cassette tape or VCR or floppy disk fellow Hindus. Firecrackers are not the only source of income for Sivakasi workers in any case. Their chief cottage industry is matchstick making, a connected business.
My mother-in-law is 84 and for every Diwali keeping her away from the firecracker noise is a big task for me. She is healthy for her age but says, the noise makes her heart pound. Don’t we have a concern for the elderly and the sick at all. What about the street dogs and stray cats. The mongrels suffer the most fleeing our streets to take refuge in garbage dumps. Birds shriek. Whatever rain clouds gather disperse. Temperature soars when it must be low. Then finally the poison laden burnt cracker paper rolls end up in our waterways. And this tradition we have to continue because, some liberals and leftists pronounced against firecrackers. As dutiful Hindus we are up in arms, not for a thousand more important issues such as caste prejudice or rising unemployment, but for something which doesn’t need tutoring.
What the heck Priyanka Chopra says. I don’t care whether she has asthma or whatever. But I care deeply about my country, about the smoke hanging in the air, the pollution, the greying of our greens. To me nature and wildlife and all flora and fauna of this world matter more over these frivolous celebrations.
I have lived in Islamic countries where I have observed that celebrations need not have to be loud and raucous. We can have a quiet and peaceful Diwali like they have their Eid. Their biggest festivals in this part of the world are celebrated without a whisper. In fact, there are animal sacrifices but i have never encountered anything disruptive or uncomfortable and upsetting in the public. In the middle east, i haven’t even caught the drift of the meat smell much, good for my vegetarian senses. Any festive occasion, apart from the religious part, is marked by greeting your friends and family first in bright new clothes, then exchange of sweets and food, visiting friends and family and then spending the evenings in picnic spots or wherever or by engaging in social entertainment/activities. The workers are plied with goodies. For fasting month, always for fast breaking i have seen the arab men at traffic signals etc., handing out gift boxes of snacks to one and all. I have come to like this very down-to-earth observance of festivals and I happen to think, this is how it must be. Where is pollution here. Do we Indians have the kind of money to burn like the arab sheikhs. Yet they keep it all toned down. The real happiness is in relaxing and unwinding. Luv this festival and holiday spirit.
An important lesson i have learnt here in life is: to not disturb others when we intend to celebrate. I don’t need a temple here, I don’t need to light fire crackers, yet I find such a harmony in the more meaningful observation of my Hindu religious festivals in middle east. My concentration is unwavering. In Malaysia too our Diwali celebrations were different and without firecrackers. There we used to have ‘open house’ although I never had one. Focus was on hanging out with family and friends dressing flashy and gorging on the goodies. My Hindu friends in India would be shocked to discover how much Malaysian Tamils cook up for Diwali. Tins and tins and tins of murukku alone, then pastries, then traditional sweets. These women also would be working women. Their energy levels omg! They used to call me ‘sissy’ because I could never catch up with their pace. In a chettiar family friends’ home in KL, for open house the malay-chinese crowd came nonstop in queues. Finally aunty closed the kitchen fatigued after midnight 2 am. The kitchen fires were on until then and the men went out to buy more and more groceries-provisions. Never was anyone turned away. Such a hospitality. I have seen the best of Diwalis in the south east Asian country. Modhalla veettukku koopdaraangalaanu paaru Deepavalikku – in India these days. Avangalukke paththaadhu.
I am used to this idea of satisfying yet quiet Diwali although last year I did go for firecracker shopping because it was Thalai Deepavali for my kids. I view this as an exceptional case. I do shop for minimum firecrackers. I gift most of even that to my househelp. A token firecracker will do for me because I do not want to dampen the spirit of the elderly in the house who insist that, ‘Deepavalikku kadaaila ennai kaayanum. vedi vedikkanum. thalaila ennai vekkanum. pudhusu podanum.’ It is true, once upon a time in my life I was also firing up a lot of crackers adding to the noise and pollution.
At Disney world in Orlando for a Christmas, I was impressed how even in the US celebrations are muted and noise pollution free. In fact we were there for the midnight laser show. Such a disciplined crowd. Yes fireworks lit up the sky in ethereal formations but this is just one holiday spot I am talking about. Other than that, I saw some houses decorated with lights and xmas themes. Barring this, I did not encounter any outrageous kind of celebrations like we have in India at the drop of hat for everything. Sometimes I think we Indians are frustrated and we seek release in this pompous unruly street celebrations that are only on increase over years. We care the damn for environment. It is perfectly okay for us to block traffic and litter our streets. We just want the world to know we Hindus have the right to celebrate Hindu festivals the way we want to. Others can go to hell.
For new year that year I was in Vegas, the hottest place you can imagine. Given its reputation. Even this tinseltown did not match up with my expectations and in no way compared to mass street celebrations we have in India from Janmashtami and Ganesh Chaturthi to Navratri and Diwali. Every religious festival for us has to be necessarily environmentally damaging. We have to immerse chemical dyed deities in waterways and kill marine life. Why leave out the air just with vehicular smoke. Add the Diwali bonus to it to complete the picture.
I find it nauseous that we have reduced our religious rituals to such crass levels as this: mass hysteria hijacking harmonious and familial occasions and commercialization of the festivals. This to me, no more has a meaning or relevance. This potta potti with christians and muslims – is shocking.
Our commitment, our responsibility, our duty is towards our nation first. Why should what the activists or media guys report influence us. Are we not capable of taking a conscientious decision. Are we not educated on our increasing levels of air pollution and the toxicity in our waterways. Industries – we cannot be without as they provide our masses with gainful employment. But what we can do without, why cannot we. How can lighting the earthen diyas reverse pollution or reduce it. Down south, even the diyas we lit only for Karthigai Deepam, never for Deepavali all these years. Suddenly we have Sangeeth, Mehendi, Diyas for Diwali, Dhanteras, what not!
Look at the campaigns for Diwali this season. Why should we want to communalize and/or politicize trivial issues. Looks like we are waiting for a chance to pounce upon someone for their anti-hindu tirade. We want a reason to unleash our fury on anyone who dares to question us even if it could be justified. As for Fabindia or Tanishq, dear Hindus, how many businesses of yours hand over porridge for fast breaking to muslim customers who go shopping in T Nagar showrooms, for instance. Business means business. We have to get value for our money, whoever it may be from. If we have to bring caste and religion into everything, all of us from the US, Europe and Middle east have to be ready to pack up and return to India.
What should you react for: when elephant corridors and forest ranges are taken over for yoga ashrams and ayurvedic companies. But when the offending parties are Hindus, we prefer to play it down, right.
The love and respect I have for my nation need not have to be explained with the firecrackers for Diwali. The reverence I have for my Dharma i need not have to proclaim from rooftop, I am still a devout Hindu and a patriotic Indian. I don’t have to speak Hindi and I haven’t been to Delhi so far. I am the most unconventional citizen you may ever find in Bharat, and there are very few of my kind in our country. All that wouldn’t make me any less Hindu than you are or less of an Indian.