Monday, November 15, 2010

Diwali - More about the noise than the lights!

Yes, I am aware that the title sounds cynical but unfortunately, that is what it has come to mean for most. I remember the time when Diwali meant the excitement of new clothes, the smell of homemade sweets wafting in the air, visiting friends and family, some sparklers and at the most a couple of small 'bombs' that could be heard sporadically. The little noise that was, would die down much before midnight, giving people time to relax and look forward to the coming year.

Since then, crackers only mean strings of bombs - if Mr X got a string of 500, I should get one of a thousand at least. They start bursting it a week before and go on till very late in the night, regardless of the discomfort of others - man and animal alike. Many I know prefer to sneak out of the city for some peace and quiet, but not everyone can.

There was a time when fireworks were discouraged since it employs child labor. As a result, people lamented on the fate of the poor children while still buying bags of fireworks. And of course the environment angle would never inspire people to quit, no matter how many animals get terrified or injured, and no matter the amount of noise, smoke and garbage that result.

This Diwali, our first in Bombay, was as noisy. Rummy barely came out from under the furniture for the whole week. But it was also a time with family. My parents were with us. Our home was lit up. I had made small give-aways for our neighbors along with a box of sweets, and we even had some rangoli at the door. All of us got dressed up and went for a drive. It was good to see the buildings all lit up (we tried to ignore people playing with fireworks on the roads and near parked cars), and the neighborhood temple was all decked up too for the occasion.

Although a quieter Diwali is still a long way off, there is some hope because people are becoming aware of the hazards of fire crackers. Change usually creeps in very slowly, and before you know it, you will be celebrating a peaceful festival with family and friends the way it was meant to be. Hopefully, I will see that in my lifetime.

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