I couldn’t wait for Diwali as a kid. Celebrations in our small town of Jamshedpur would start a week in advance. Every night sporadic bursts of crackers rent the air, the markets became all colourful and the children more anxious, waiting for the holidays to begin.
For those of you who grew up in North India, the sentiment, the phenomenon of Diwali is completely different from the South. Here it is a more laid-back pious approach. That deserves another story.
Today, I am here to mourn the loss of the Diwali of my childhood. When crackers were the highlight of everyone’s Diwali. The Sivakasi factory used to be doing overtime to furnish demands. We were blissfully unaware of the dangers that lay behind the whole profession. Rs 100- Rs 500- Rs 10,000 worth crackers used to be bought without a thought.
For us, Diwali meant – holidays, waking up late, bursting crackers from morning till night, staying out of our parents’ way as they hurriedly knocked off that cobweb stubbornly clinging onto the gate or clearing that last bit of dirt on the floor. Evenings meant gatherings, wearing new clothes, visits to friends and relatives houses, exchanging festive greetings, gorging on sweets and finally, the most awaited part of the day, bursting firecrackers!
The one day parents are a little bit lax about allowing children to play with fire under their watchful eyes. It was a delight seeing the myriad of lights and sounds that erupted at the burst of one little firecracker. Our faces scared, yet overjoyed at seeing the paper marvels. Then the loudest firecracker, the longest surviving hoard, etc used to be the talk of the colony and nothing, absolutely nothing could distract children from the fireworks display unless it was an even bigger hoard.
Now as times have changed and as we grew bigger Diwali also waned. The excitement, fun, togetherness, air…all have changed.
Gone are the swoosh of rockets..rat-a-tat-tat of the tiny red crackers, booms of the bombs and wide-eyed wonder and even the accompanying shouts of glee and fear. Now all you hear is the noise of vehicle horns, the former sounds of crackers few and far in between. The skies have become much quieter, the music score changed to that of sighs, frustration and noise.
As an adult Diwali is now either spent trying to shut yourself in the house hoping that no one disturbs you on the one day you get a holiday from work. If you are the more social sort then it’s all about decisions – which party to hit? What to gift? What to wear so that you don’t look like a glorified sparkler yourself? How to pacify the restless kids? How to get back in time so that you are not late for office the next day? How to manage office, family, festivities and cooking? Oh! The numerous questions that assail us as adults now.
What once meant camaraderie, relieving our childhood through the children, looking forward to the festival of lights and joyously preparing for the festivities has now become a chore and a charade; expected to be done just because it is demanded of you by tradition and family. Even children are not excited as we used to be 10 years ago. May be they have become wiser, more clued in to the environment or maybe, they haven’t seen a proper Diwali as yet.
This Diwali all I am hearing is the shouts of ban on crackers, the demand for a green diwali, protests of fireworks factory workers being drowned by the cries to protect the environment. This Diwali it will be a black Diwali for the families of workers involved in this industry – in Sivakasi, in Rajasthan, in Delhi - with many people deciding to abstain from the extravaganza.
This year it is demonetisation, GST and pollution that have exploded the biggest bombs and much before Diwali. Their effects being felt even now.
I wonder will the children of this age and time know what it is to actually celebrate Diwali. With all these changes around me I look and yearn for that Diwali of yore and wish that maybe if we had had made better choices in the past we would have been celebrating it with crackers today.
Nonetheless, I leave you with a wish for a Happy Diwali and hope that one day the skies will once again reverberate with sound of happiness.