Monday, November 4, 2013

Eco-Diwali

I have always had a hatred of loud noises. A hatred accentuated by the fact that, just as I am lolling on my settee and avidly watching the Diwali movie on TV, my house shakes, the windows rattle and I am jerked out of my sloth with palpitations. Not even the magic of Rajnikant can withstand the shock of a hazaaron-wala going ballistic just outside the window. Needless to say, then, Diwali is that time of the year when I swathe myself in cotton and cling on to my bed for dear life.

This Diwali was different. I woke up in the morning - as people call it, though I am still not used to thinking of 7 AM as 'morning' - to a totally unnatural silence and started wondering whether this was indeed the day my cousin had invited me over. Was it really the day of Diwali or was I going to make the egregious mistake on landing on the previous day and cause embarrassment all around?

It was Diwali, thankfully, and I learnt that, all over the place, there was this new idea of celebrating Diwali the eco-friendly way - sans-crackers. I was ecstatic. There you were - we had fixed up a day to be eco-friendly and, thus, could happily keep boasting of our eco-friendly ways the rest of the year without the burden of having to live up to it. Yippeeee!

We have all these days - and the theory seems to be that those days are there to bring to the fore and celebrate all that was there in the back of your mind anyway. Seldom have I seen it work that way. I see those days as being more for keeping all those inconvenient things restricted to that one day so that we can get on with our 'normal' lives for the rest of the year. Independence day seems to absolve you of any need for patriotism for the rest of the year; Mother's day is the day you visit your mom in the old age home and get that warm feeling of having cared sufficiently for your mother and, if Valentine's day does not operate the same way, it is only because your valentine will just not allow it to be so. Now, Diwali is the official day for being eco-friendly, thereby absolving you of the need to do a thing towards eco-friendliness during the rest of the year.

I do not need to teach my child to take public transport instead of insisting on being dropped by car; do not have to insist on him not junking his mobile every other day to get the latest model; need not keep reminding him to switch off electrical appliances when not in use or close taps and, in short, do not have to teach him to use with care all the things that cause pollution in their making. After all, I have done my part on Diwali, have I not?

I, probably, am the only person who prefers the vibrancy of Diwali with all the pollution (though my definition of vibrancy still does not go so far as those hazaaron-walas) if only we would be eco-conscious the rest of the year. That, however, is too much work. Much easier to be eco-friendly on one day and relax for the rest of the year!

54 comments:

  1. Oh, I love the words, dripping with sarcasm, with a tadka of humour. I've grown too old, I hate all festivals with equal intensity

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    1. I seem to have taken to sarcasm in my dotage, Ritu :)

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    2. Dotage?! You??

      You will never be in your dotage Suresh. You are too vibrant by half. :D

      Loved the penultimate para. I never realized the contribution of the progeny to environment hazard. You've made me think.

      Dagny

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  2. True. Actual festivals and celebration are what channels people's community spirit and feel the bond. It is easy to get rid of these festivals in the name of noble causes we don't give a damn to when it affects our day to day convenience.

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    1. You get to the pith of what I am saying with absolute ease, TF! Makes me feel that I am not being all that obscure after all. Thanks!

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  3. I agree that if these are meant to wash off your hands from the responsibility of behaving responsibly for the rest of the year, then they are sham. However, if they indeed end up in making even a few people consider their life choices then it is totally worth it. Also even if ideally we must honour our elders, love, children, pet every single day in our lives, what is the harm in doing it specially on one day? After all we all enjoy the extra pampering we get on our birthdays, don't we? I don't see anything wrong in remembering a father, mother or significant other and doing something extra special for them on one day. It does not have to mean that the other days, we are throwing muck at them :).I think our environment is really fragile and all these visarjans and crackers is just making it more strained. At least, if the kids can help show their parents the futility of it all it helps. We know that kids are decision makers when it comes to buying crackers. So, I like the campaigns they do in school around Diwali to spread awareness among kids. Yep, I pretty much dislike Diwali due to all these noisy patakhas not to mention how detrimental it is for our ears and my pet's health.

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    1. I do not say that they are meant to be a sham Rachna - just that people act as though their duty is done if that one day is observed. That should explain the fact that I have nothing against having special days IF people will not salve their consciences with a token observance on that day and forget it the rest of the year. (You mentioned B'days. Tell me how about a hubby/wife who buys a present for that day and snipes at the other the rest of the year? :) It is THAT I am against - the idea that being a good companion to the other is all done and dusted with that one day)

      As for Diwali - with all my hatred of crackers - I am not too fond of the campaign. The way we celebrate Diwali is also a cultural symbol. (For example - what if it were all phool-jadis and the like? No noise but pollution still) The ease with which we adopt the use-and-throw culture of the West, which probably causes more harm to the environment than a day of crackers does, and the ease with which we are ready to dispense with the very few instances where our own culture was being eco-unfriendly is, for me, not a healthy sign. It is as though the only way we can be eco-friendly is by dispensing with our own cultural markers.

      But, yes, there are some unhealthy changes in our own culture - like the idiotic competition to create the most massive idol of Ganesh; synthetic colors for Holi and the other idiotic competition in Diwali of the longest cracker series. I am not too fond of them either. But throwing the baby with the bath-water is just not something I am in favor of.

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    2. I understand the point you are making, Suresh. I also agree that symbolic following of things serves no purpose. But where I disagree is that by making something a cynosure of attention for one day, it does create awareness and perhaps help bring an overall change in behavior. I don't believe that doing this is futile. I see a lot of 'unlearning' of Western practices happening as well. I see my own kids learning about junk food at school. I also see that they understand when told about child labor and pollution involved in crackers. And hence they understand when we don't want to burst crackers. I hardly had any understanding of this when I was growing up. There are a lot of people who are going back to cooking at home and staying away from processed foods. As a matter of fact, every house I visited had homemade sweets and namkeen. I know an equal number of women who take pride in cooking from natural ingredients at home. I believe that awareness of any kind is good. And every ritual, every more needs to be open to questioning and introspection. Just because our elders said it or it is in our Indian culture, it does not become right, good or relevant.

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    3. Well - I believe for every family like yours Rachna there are a hundred who think their duty is done with one token observance :) Yes - every festival and ritual should be open to introspection. BUT, as far as I can see, Diwali is a stand-out festival AS the festival of lights, crackers and sweets. AND any festival is marked by conspicuous consumption - which can be seen as detrimental to the environment. So, eco-friendliness is NOT, in my mind, a reason to dispense with Diwali as it is celebrated. IF you wanted laws in place limiting the decibel levels of the crackers, laws about child labor enforced and all that, you would not find me in opposition. BUT if you are set on a course where your great grand-children are being taught in history that 'Once upon a time, Diwali was celebrated with crackers' I AM dead against it.

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  4. That is a thought provoking post, Suresh. You have quietly brought in the Independence Day and the Mother's Day to devastating effect. And I liked the humour part about the Valentine's day. Have a great year ahead!

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    1. Thanks Umashankar! Sometimes my detestation for tokenism and our readiness to dispense with our own identity in the name of noble causes - while sticking rigorously to borrowed things that similarly are against the same causes - gets the better of me.

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  5. Lovely post, especially loved the important point that you brought out around the fact that people use days like Independence Day and Republic Day to feel all gung-ho and patriotic about India on these days, and then go back to their day jobs for the remaining 360+ days bad mouthing how dirty, corrupt, and polluted India is. I absolutely detest this kind of hypocrisy and that precisely is the point you bring out in your post. Lovely post.

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    1. Thanks Jairam! I normally detest tokenism and I find that most of these special days end up in promoting tokenism

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  6. Your post is fantastic. So much truth. I don't love crackers my self but even I detest the whole concept of promoting Eco friendly only once a year.

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    1. Thanks Sugandha! Looks like I am in good company.

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  7. Yes, Suresh, a trait shared round the world.

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  8. Bang on Suresh. For all those people who are sorted there are equal number of people who are unsorted in the sense that...hum ko kya padi hai attitude. Hope we all change for the better.

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    1. Ah! The issue is also that children seem to be learning that all you need to do to be eco-friendly is to avoid crackers during Diwali. Got that reaction from a few of my nephews and nieces who did not seem to have a clue that there were environmental effects of having Mom drive you to school; eating all those lovely Lays and changing their mobiles once every 2 months :)

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  9. This was probably one reason, I realized over period of time, that I stopped celebrating festivals.Not a very good idea to be good for one day and be bad for the rest of the year. Better to be same throughout the year, so when we bring change into our life, it remains there to remain forever :)

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  10. Hypocritical, aren't we? We humans always play around with our practices to suit us well. I feel moderation is the key. As always, a fantastic post!









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  11. But Suresh, why are you being so modest? With your child, or lack thereof, haven't you already done your bit to make everyday like an eco friendly Diwali day? Not just the noise and pollution of firecrackers, I don't see your household indulging in year long blaring music, the fridge left open for hours instead of seconds, all ACs and fans left on in every room, taps being left open, mounds of Pizzahut boxes lying in the trash etc etc etc!
    I'd say you are a model parent!

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    1. Hahaha! Now THAT is how one becomes a parent without ever begetting an offspring :)

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  12. Well, we always love shortcuts and make believe games. Difficult to change.

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    1. True - but difficult for me not to dislike :)

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  13. a deja vu kind of felling as i read this post! my elder one though just 9, would hit it off with you very well !!

    he told me about this campaign they had in school about not buying crackers for diwali..blah blah... and he reportedly asked his teacher what she thought about being eco-friendly with other festivals....!!

    we didn't buy crackers this year on his insistence.....and we had a good discussion on how eco friendliness can be spread to other areas as well...(psst.. are u teaching at his school, by the way?)

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    1. Me - I would rather have Diwali with crackers and more eco-friendly behavior the rest of the year. :)

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  14. Lovely post, Suresh, very apt. To assuage that thing called a conscience is all that we work toward, don't we?

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    1. And ours is rather easily assuaged, isn't it, Achyut? :)

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  15. I totally agree with you, Suresh, what's the point of being eco-friendly just one day in the year?! I love festivals. I think they foster community spirit and celebration. Community-mindedness is dying out in our society and part of the reason is that festivals are too much bother, too damaging to the environment. The universe will not die out if we burst a modest amount of fireworks at Diwali or play a day of Holi. The gains are psychological, in the feeling of being part of a whole.

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    1. That was a part of what I want to say, Mimmy! The ONLY Indian festival anyone outside this country instantly recognizes is Diwali - and we want to kill it totally in the name of eco-friendliness. Festivals are when we celebrate without care to conserve - so that we can keep conservation for all the other days of the year. It seems an Indian peculiarity to keep all our conservation to festivals and give it the go-by the rest of the year.

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  16. I am all confused about the various point of views being talked about and passed around on Diwali and firecrackers. We talk about eco-friendly and yet everywhere I look there's smoke. What happened to air pollution? Is environment only about noise? A few years ago, everyone wanted to give up on fire crackers because of child labour and the like. But then a discussion with someone else had me thinking - what happens to the children who get food at least twice a day because of the work they put in in the fireworks factory? I am against child labour too but simply shutting shop helps no one. The children might end up starving. If we can provide them an alternative way of life that helps them live live without having to labour it out, wouldn't that be the best thing? I bought a bunch of sparklers, one small box of small chakras and one small box of small flowerpots and one small box of matchbox bombs. Noise included. A little bit. Simply to make up for 8 missed Diwalis in India. Simply to celebrate the spirit of Diwali in a way that I have celebrated it all my life growing up! I would rather do that and not honk much through out the year - that's what I believe works for me!

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    1. We have this peculiar attitude of fighting all the wrong battles. If you want to fight child labor - fight that. What is this nonsense about not using fire-crackers? So, a Diwali without crackers in half a century seems like an attractive proposition? July the 4th; Guy Fawkes Day; Chinese New year - all without fireworks? Halloween without masks? What next? Live a day-to-day life of eco-friendliness. Festivals are for celebrations without care to conservation.

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  17. Yes Suresh tokenism is the theme of these times.A lot of hoo haa on one day and then --live life as you like.

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  18. So true. This is why I don't celebrate Earth Day anymore. While a good idea in practise, I actually saw people using electricity way more than they should, because so what they would be switching off the next day. :/
    And also, this article -
    http://citycaucus.com/2012/04/is-earth-day-bad-for-the-environment/
    Great post!

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    1. Thanks Shweta! All these days end up being more harm than help :)

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  19. I was just telling it to a friend, if people want us to stop bursting crackers, rather than asking us not to buy, they should cut it off at the source. And as you pointed out, it seems more an excuse to ensure that on that day we try and behave in an eco-friendly way rather than the rest of the days!

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    1. Hmm! I'd rather they tell people of things they need to do every day rather than things to be done on only one day

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  20. I echo your sentiments. Festivals are meant to be celebrated instead of being presented with a list of more do's than donts'. It makes more sense if we live responsibly for the rest of the year and have a blast on festivals. Unfortunately for most, it's the other way round.

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    1. That, in a nutshell, is what I was trying to say, Purba!

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  21. We went all green this time..After all it is the festival of lights and not of noise and pollution.....But I echo your sentiments too!!

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    1. Ah! I love the lights too rather than the noises. :) As for pollution - I'd rather take a day of pollution if there will be 364 days wen people try to keep it down.

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  22. I echo your sentiments. But I love the loudness of crackers... maybe if we can be evo friendly all through out the day(which I'm not) crackers once a year can be justified no... :D

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    1. My point is that you SHOULD try to be eco-friendly throughout the year and NOT make token efforts like this :)

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  23. I too hate the bang-boom-boom-crash sounds of Diwali. And dont even get me started on the vicious smoke that engulfs the entire city. I feel as if my lungs are being squeezed by some iron hand. Happy Diwali and New Year to you Suresh :)

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    1. Thanks and wish you the same DS! Been a while.

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  24. Nice post life is like . very intrest post . i also like this.

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