“Papa patakhe lene chalo”
This used to be a standard practice a few days before Diwali where my dad used to take us to buy an unhealthy amount of crackers. So many so that the trunk of our humble Opel Corsa used to get almost full.
Everything from the light stuff like phuljharis and hunters and Bijli bum to the heavy stuff like sky shots and rockets (remember the one with those little parachutes which used to fall down into your neighbor’s house) and gola bums (sounds wrong when I type it out) and chakris and anars used to be stuffed inside our car, ready to be ignited in an orgy of noise and light and minor burns.
Burst some crackers for Diwa-ali, Fa La La La, La La La
And I LOVED IT! The bright colors, the showers of light that used to illuminate the sky above my house and make me drop my jaw in awe, and that feeling of elation when the rocket went ‘wheeeee’.
If there is one thing I clearly remember about my childhood obsession with exploding crackers is how scared I was when lighting up my first cracker. Afraid that it would explode and I would die and miss school, I ran like a pansy away from the rocket as soon as I saw the faintest hint of a spark.
‘Twas a community effort
And it wasn’t just me who loved exploding crackers, all my friends did, in fact, it was a matter of pride how many crackers you burst and how much you spent on them (oh, how blissfully unaware we all were of our entitlement). There were legitimate discussion and arguments on which type of cracker was best and which sky shot had the best design in the sky.
My neighbors joined in with equal zeal and on D-Day, we could see trails of light going up all across us and exploding above, dazzling us. With the occasional boom-boom of the aforementioned gola bums going off in the background and the ever-present pop-pop of the ladis that lined the streets.
OH, HAPPY DAYS!
I used to hear a lot about the pollution that Diwali caused and chose to conveniently ignore it, just like the rest of India, until I was diagnosed with asthma and was directly affected by all of this.
I still remember how it all changed
Strange, isn’t it? How you magically understand problems only when you go through them. Just like I really understood how tough it is to breathe on D-Day. That year was torturous, my cousins refused to not burst crackers and I lay in my closed off bedroom coughing and wheezing with little to no relief being offered by meds.
Strange, isn’t it? How you magically understand problems only when you go through them
All around me there were loud, insanely loud noises that had never bothered me before but were doing exactly that right now. My head pounded and pounded with each boom that came from outside. This went well into the night and led to me not getting one single wink of sleep till 4 AM.
The next day wasn’t a cake-walk either, a cloud of smoke hung low in the sky, forcing me to stay indoors. The stench of powder was overwhelming, especially to my inflamed nose. Everywhere, waste littered the streets and our community dustbin was overflowing with the excreta of this celebration orgy.
I found a bunch of dogs hiding underneath a car, shivering with fear. I also found two birds with blackened wings and a line outside the nearby hospital, of people, coughing and wheezing, just like me.
This was when the tide turned for me, this was when I understood what all the fuss was about, why people talked about the noise, the pollution, the harm it causes to animals. No religious ritual can, for me, be above the physical well-being of people and animals. I could not be comfortable with the fact that in celebrating a god’s return, I was causing harm to its creations and to myself.
I could not be comfortable with the fact that in celebrating a god’s return, I was causing harm to its creations
It saddens me that people still insist on bursting crackers just because “CULTURE” and “RELIGIOUS FREEDOM”. I wish, I hope they go through what I did, then maybe they’ll get it. So that’s what I will prayer will be this Diwali, asthma to all, because let’s face it, we are probably all going to get it anyway.
Image Credits: Google Images
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