Saturday, 7 November 2015

How about banning some non-Diwali pollutants?


It’s that time of the year again.  Diwali is round the corner!



It is time for lamps, sweets, new clothes and fireworks.  

Did I say fireworks? 

It seems that many people want to take the fun out of the festival this time round.  The amount of paranoia and sudden discovery of environment-consciousness beggars belief.

The Chief Minister has also thrown his hat into the ring.  I received a recorded call on the mobile in which he has appealed against the bursting of crackers during this Diwali.

In other parts of the country, parents of toddlers have registered a case in the court against the bursting of crackers, school children are taking out processions with placards reading, 'Let's celebrate pollution free Diwali', celebrities are tweeting about going noiseless this Diwali, and just about anybody who is somebody is expressing his or her anguish at the immense suffering caused by the bursting of crackers during the festival.

How noble!  

This got me thinking.  Why target only Diwali?  Since we are so good at banning everything, why not look at a few other irritants that can also be banned?  

Here are some suggestions.

Vehicles: 
Diwali lasts for 3 days in a year.  The rest of the 362 days of the year, and even during those 3 days, there are millions of vehicles on the road emanating noxious fumes.  Several studies have shown that if you are a city dweller, your lungs turn black due to the exposure to vehicular emissions, and are prone to asthma and bronchitis.  Why not BAN VEHICLES?

Cigarettes: 
Apparently India has signed on to the global anti-smoking drive.  But just walk around any street, and you will find men, and yes, women too, smoking like chimneys.  Second hand smoke has been proved to be as dangerous as actively smoking beedis or cigarettes.  Perhaps the parents of those toddlers can go to each one of the culprits and pluck that stick out of their mouths!  After that, they can - literally - kick their butts.  

Sources of noise:  Ah yes, those green-twine bombs make a lot of noise.



The Government says that a cracker should not emit more than 90 dB at a distance of 5 metres.  Then how about the HOOOOOOOOOOOOONK!!!! that cars and bikes emit?  Forget busy intersections, even the so-called silent zones - schools and hospitals - are not spared from the earsplitting cacophonous horn.  And not to forget that annoying reverse-parking alarm.  Can you SILENCE THEM? 

Also, don't these cracker-phobics find the religious 'call for prayer' at 5 in the morning disturbing?  Or how about late night clubs that keep the party going on well past the prescribed closing time?  What about celebrities' or ministers' events that can go on for hours and cause traffic jams?  Or the missionaries' stage shows wherein loud proclamations of miracle healing are made, followed by exhortations to change over to the true path.  Why don't you BAN ALL OF THEM?  

Driving:
Bursting crackers is very risky they say.  They can explode, they are flammable and can cause burn injuries.  Driving is highly risky, yet we do it every day, don’t we?  Have you seen how we drive on our roads?  Can there be anything riskier than travelling on our roads?  Death is a constant co-passenger on our roads where the only rule is that there is no rule.  Why not BAN DRIVING?  

I could go on, but you get the idea...

In the UK, Guy Fawkes day is celebrated every year round about the time of Diwali.  There are massive fireworks displays to commemorate the foiling of the plot to blow up the Parliament House by Guy Fawkes and his colleagues in 1605.  

If western people celebrate an event that happened about 400 years ago, it is fine.  But somehow a tradition that goes back thousands of years has now suddenly become passe for these western educated and culturally shortsighted elite.     

I still remember that as children, we used to plan for the bursting of crackers several days ahead of Diwali.  Buying the crackers and dividing them into three portions to be lit on each of the three days of the festival gave us immense joy.  Then on the first day of the festival, we would compete with each other to be the first to go out and burst the cracker.  By evening, the entire street would be lined with lamps and families would come out to light flowerpots, bhoomi chakras, vishnu chakras, sparklers, rockets, pencils and wires.  Sometimes we would gift these crackers to the less privileged children, which invariably brought about a huge smile on their faces.


Are you saying that the very same toddlers, whose parents have filed the litigation would not enjoy fireworks?  As usual, it is not the children, but the adults that are the problem.

Would you give up on your time honoured tradition, just because there is a risk involved in following the practice?  There is an element of risk in everything that we do.  It is not banning, but managing the event responsibly that is the key here.  So what can we do to have a safe Diwali this year?

The first and foremost is awareness and safety consciousness.  There may well be government legislations and safety norms that cracker manufacturers have to adhere to, but without our own mindfulness and efforts, these can never make a difference. 

By all means, go for noiseless crackers.  Spend less on crackers, but do not totally ban them from your children's lives.  Distribute the crackers that you among with the less privileged.  Why not identify a communal area in your locality where families can get together to burst crackers.  That way, smoke and noise can be reduced in the residential areas.  This would also help those with respiratory and cardiac problems, and animals that are sensitive to noise from crackers.  Do not burst crackers during the official night time (10 p.m. to 6 a.m.).  

Diwali is a wonderful festival that signifies the victory of good over evil.  If we follow some basic precautions, it is possible to safely celebrate this victory with lights from lamps, serial sets and firecrackers.  

The take home message is celebrate, but be responsible.

Here’s wishing a happy and safe Diwali to all!

And yes, I will be bursting crackers this year too!  



Image sources:
http://happydiwalifestival.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/Diwali-greeting-cards.jpg
http://i.ndtvimg.com/mt/2009-10/crackersbig.jpg
http://media.newindianexpress.com/article1337355.ece/alternates/w620/Deepaval.jpg