Let’s Celebrate a Different Diwali This Year

It’s that time of the year again, when houses are lit up in bright lights, there are guests coming over with huge gifts everyday, we’re attending card parties, festivities all around. Yes, Diwali is round the corner. This is the time when some of you will brighten up your houses with a Rangoli, some of you will light diyas, some will hog on all the sweets you receive, some will help your mothers with all the cleaning, and a whole bunch of you will light up the night skies and give your neighbors’ eardrums a good treatment with crackers.

It’s a quintessential part of Diwali, isn’t it? Fire crackers. There’s a thrill involved in those precious few seconds between lighting the fuse and waiting for the boom. You may be a 30 year old adult, but you’re the true stud if you lit the longest “ladi” in your society. You may be a parent who unwillingly has to give in to you child’s demands about buying 10 sky shots and a packet of gola bombs. Mom may ask you to bring just 1 “phooljhadi” for her. And after all this is over and all that’s left is dust ash, you go home and sleep like a baby. Happy Diwali to all!

Let’s look at this festival with another pair of eyes. How about the eyes of the scared street dog, who is constantly running away from the fiery mess on the roads, who’s trying to find a shelter to protect herself and her newborn puppies from the sparks and ashes. Would you give second thoughts to the street dog you pat everyday if he turns up with burnt flesh tomorrow?

Let’s look at this festival from another pair of eyes. The eyes of the 11 year old girl who has been employed in the factory that makes these due crackers. She hasn’t had a book in her hands. Ever. She’s trying to earn a bare minimum wage for her family. Her father perhaps forces her to do this and seeing how this country works, she probably has no say in it. Her hands, black with the chemicals she manually fills in the crackers, fast tracking her into future skin cancer, not that anyone is bothered.

Let’s look at this festival from another pair of eyes. The eyes of an infant in your house. You try to be as protective as you can be, you close all doors to prevent the loud noises or the pollution from reaching her but deep down you know that it’s in vain. The 7 month old will wake up with a cough tomorrow. Who knows, maybe it turns into something more than a simple cough because of the soot she inhaled. Her lungs are too fragile to handle the pollution, eyes too delicate, ears too sensitive. Would you be able to forgive yourself if your immaturity lead to an infant going deaf? Or a child losing her sight?

Let’s look at this festival from another pair of eyes. Ours. The intelligent, aware, and responsible youth. Last Diwali, in Delhi, particulate matter levels surpassed the worst that Beijing has experienced. To put that in layman’s terms, the air of Delhi became worse than the most polluted city in the world. Looking at PM2.5 levels – the hourly concentration of very fine particles up to 2.5 microgrammes in diameter which can severely affect respiratory functioning – air quality reached “severe”, a level of pollution that India officially rates as its worst possible, and describes as one that “affects even healthy people, and seriously impacts those with existing diseases”.

As a matter of fact, PM2.5 levels were recorded to be as high as 2500 microgramme per cubic meter in some areas of Delhi. To put that in perspective, the World Health Organisation’s safe standard is 60. Yes, that’s nearly 40 times the safe standard. And if you think this is just for one night and it’s all going to go away the next morning, you’re wrong. This is the air we all breath for the next few days. Imagine the kind of damage that could do to us, to our loved ones, to the elderly, to infants and to everyone else around us. Think.

This year, let’s all be the change we wish to see in society. Instead of spending thousands of rupees on crackers, use that money to feed the hungry. Shelter the homeless. Bring a smile to child’s face. An average family spends around Rs. 1000 on crackers every year. That money can be used to buy 3 full meals for a needy family.

Furthermore, there are 1.2 billion (120 cr.) people in India. On average, let’s say one family has 4 people in it. That means there are ~30 cr. families in India. Let’s assume, Majority of the non-Hindus won’t spend a lot of money on firecrackers. And ~30% population in India is non-Hindu. So, there are 20 cr. (30-10) families. In this again 70% people are below poverty line. So, there are 6 cr (20-14) families.  In this again only 50% of people above poverty will go for crackers. So, there are 3 cr families.

Now imagine what 3 cr families, with their average spending on crackers could do to this country in one day. I’ll leave the math to you.

Lastly, a very Happy Diwali to all! :)

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