From the past few days my facebook wall has been filled with posts like 'say no to crackers', 'enjoy a cracker free diwali', 'crackers harm the voiceless', etc. or 'diwali party with girlies', 'cards party, 'dolled up for diwali party', etc.. Where are we going? Where is the essence of Diwali that I witnessed and my little cousins don't? Where is the excitement that comes with cleaning the house, decorating it and deciding useful and fun gifts for relatives? Well, its lost and we've all reached a phase where Diwali means cards parties. dressing up better than the girl who purposely spilled wine on your favorite anarkali suit last year or throwing a better cards party than Mrs.Sharma.
I am not against these cards parties but what makes me sad is the fact that these parties have become the modern definition of Diwali. I remember writing essays in primary school about Diwali. All I would to write was, 'people burst crackers, clean there houses, eat sweets, light diyas and give gifts'. What will a second standard student write about Diwali now or maybe five years later? 'My parents attend cards parties and my food for school the next day depends on the amount of money they won or lost! Also, I have been taught we should not burst crackers and therefore, I play video games. My mother doesn't have time to tell me why we celebrate Diwali as she knows Google will give me twenty different stories about one festival and also because she has to go to the salon to look better than Sharma and Sethi Aunty at all the Diwali Parties. Also, we have stencils so it only takes five minutes to make a rangoli!
The way people have been gambling during Diwali parties off late, I can totally imagine some big shot business man throwing a Diwali party in Las Vegas!
Every year after the Diwali pooja my mother goes downstairs without fail and even takes me along to burst crackers. I always try to fight with her but she only has one thing to say, 'the festival is incomplete without crackers as its only two phuljhadi's and one anaar and its a part of the ritual'. And every year we burst one anaar and two phuljhadis. Its this year when I realized she has always been right! The festival is indeed incomplete without crackers. No, I don't hate animals and neither am I fond of pollution but what if every household bursts only two phuljhadis and one anaar on Diwali? Think of a 'Happy Diwali Policy' where crackers are banned in every hook and corner of our country and its only on the day of Diwali that every household irrespective of their incomes gets a cracker subsidy from the government. A box of limited crackers like phuljhadi, anaar, etc.. A box per household. A box that gives happiness. A box that makes sure we do not feel guilty while bursting crackers and also the festival doesn't lose its essence. I shared this idea with a friend who is a media person and he told me that something similar happens in the west too and that's why nobody questions when they burst crackers. Also, there fireworks are beautiful unlike ours that focus just on the noise. I felt so smart and intelligent as I had no clue something similar to my idea happens in the west too!!
India is one of the most culturally diverse countries in the world. People all across the globe are intrigued by the way we celebrate and enjoy festivites. Even Barack Obama has declared a holiday in America on Diwali this year. Is it his yaarana with Modi that worked or is it because American elections aren't far away? Anyway, I remember how all my friends from different parts of the world at the student exchange program were stunned when I told them about the number of festivals we have and how we celebrate them. I do not want that one day we tell some foreigner that all we do on Diwali is play cards and drink. Merging and walking side by side with the western culture is only good to a certain extent. These festivals make us who we are and the way we celebrate them makes us stand out amongst others. We need to control the kids and make sure they don't start bursting crackers ten days before Diwali and only burst limited crackers on the day of the festival. Government should have something like a cracker subsidy for every household in this country. And every household includes everyone from Gupta's living next door to Bachan's and Ambani's. Diwali parties should not come to a halt but should also not become the way people look at Diwali and define it. Instead of giving your kids play stations so that you can enjoy a game of cards with a glass of wine, take them out to some Diwali Mela or show them some movie about that depicts the epicness behind the festival of lights! The velocity at which corruption is spreading in our nation, a cracker subsidy only feels like a dream but then they say, charity begins at home!
So, this Diwali don't just date a patakha, burst one too, well, only one!