A cleaner Diwali

We had gone to Ahmedabad this year for Diwali to visit my parents. And after a gap of almost five years, my brother came down from Kuala Lumpur to celebrate with us. This year, whether we had celebrated here in Bhopal or anywhere else, my elder daughter insisted that there be no fire-crackers or fire-works. She refused to budge from her stance of a cleaner environmentally friendly Diwali. And its difficult to argue tradition with a teenager armed with science and goodwill.
from our visit to himachalAt first I was apprehensive because I remember my brother as a voracious fire-cracker user from our childhood. But when my daughter confronted him with her intention in Ahmedabad, he totally supported her. He wanted nothing more than a quiet, prayerful Diwali. I was surprised to learn that even earlier he felt this way and the only reason he burst so many firecrackers was because he thought the kids loved it. Wow! I didn’t know that. And to top it all off, my parents were happy too since they are both sensitive to loud noise and the smoke from the crackers in their compromised immune systems from aging. And now that there was no rush to go and light the crackers, we had plenty of time to do puja that earlier used to take less than ten minutes. Much more time than usual. Even my sister joined in before heading off to her office.
She couldn’t come down this year from US since she didn’t apply for her Indian Visa in time so we Skyped instead with her during the whole puja and she watched Mom leading the aartis and prayers while I held a Tablet focused her and our small mandir. My sister got ready for work humming along with whatever we were singing. The prayers are the same as we’ve been singing from our childhood days in Ajmer. But having my Mom lead the service is a way more enjoyable experience than each of us doing our own things in our own ways. My mother still uses the same tune and rhythms as we remember our Nana-Nani doing decades before. It was awesome.
strange caterpillar from monsoonAnd surprisingly quiet this year. I’ve witnessed plenty of Diwalis in Ahmedabad over the years and people there just love bursting crackers. They go overboard. Its near impossible to breathe during Diwali evenings in Ahmedabad. Or be heard by anyone not speaking through a megaphone even from across the room. And not just Diwali evening – I’m talking a whole week before and at least a whole week after Diwali. But this year was different. There were noticeably less sound and air pollution this year. Don’t know why. We are certainly not any smarter or more concerned about our collective health as a society.
As a side note, our new PM too wants a cleaner India but he doesn’t say how. Showing himself brooming away, while admirable, will not make a dent in public psyche to clean up around them. Its not a class, caste or even a status issue – people don’t bother with cleanliness outside their house. Our problem is the lack of civic responsibility. We not only expect our government to clean up after us, we make sure they have more than enough work by littering to keep them occupied till the next century. As long as our own house is clean, we have no qualms about throwing our garbage in front of our neighbor’s house.
Bottom line, till our basic mindset changes, India will not get any cleaner.

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