Happy festivals of pollution: Why it's so difficult to burn the Ravana inside us

L Aruna Dhir
L Aruna DhirOct 21, 2018 | 17:34

Happy festivals of pollution: Why it's so difficult to burn the Ravana inside us

It won’t remain the festival of lights for long!

This year, we seem to be more joyous and excited about celebrating the festivals. Or at least, our overly cacophonous and heinous expression is telling me so.

In the current celebratory period that starts with Durga Puja and goes on till New Year, I noticed that the firecrackers began to be burst at Saptami itself, which is two days before Dussehra and 17 days before Diwali. This means that we are already buying the hugely hazardous stuff much longer and much more than before.


Are we celebrating our own extinction by ringing our death knell then?

Every day, the newspapers are warning us about the deteriorating air quality.

Every day, our hospitals and medical professionals are battling with new strains of even more stubborn viral and bacterial infections that we drag our sad bodies with to those places.

Every day, our children are getting struck by newer, stronger, more harmful health scares and situations.

Yet, we carry on, unrestrained, with what we have been doing with as much mindless callousness.

We refuse to take any responsibility for our own deeds and sordid ways of life.

When I was a little girl and would be taken to see the Dussehra festivities during my Dad's postings in Kanpur or Dehradun, I would notice that by 4pm or thereabouts, all the effigies were incinerated and that was the end of the day's celebration. The crackers would be burst at the time of burning the Ravana and his brothers, and then we were onto celebrating by feasting and getting together with friends and family. There was no more polluting soot or ear-shattering noise or a batch of new crackers to be burst post that.


Now people start bursting crackers long before Dussehra and Diwali. (Photo: Reuters)

As a spoilt child of seven, I was crazy about the crackers. And my parents would get them by the droves – all kinds with increasing levels of fumes, noise and harmful products. Still, on Diwali night, a big table — the size of a bed — would be put out in the huge clearing in the backyard.

And two servants would be called to burst them for us as I stood aside gleefully watching the spectacle. On hindsight, I realise that we were not wise people and were so horribly ignorant about how our actions were spelling doom for the years to come.

With advancing years, we began reducing the number of firecrackers. And just before we began banning them, we had come down to one packet of Phooljhari and five Anars. For the last eight years or more, we have come clean and have not been bursting a single cracker.

Will we ever realise the impact of our celebrations on environment and on us? (Photo: Reuters)

Our level of excitement or the extent of merriment has not been affected by the decision at all. But what has pleasantly happened is that, as a family we have reduced our carbon footprint. That’s a big sense of hurrah to feel, much more than the momentary pleasure of seeing our “greenbacks” go up in smoke and the lifelong burden on our lungs and other places.


The thing is, at some stage we have to realise the impact of our violations and take remedial steps to rectify and resurrect.

But sadly, we are collectively turning more into Ravanas and annihilating our environment. We refuse to be loyal like Hanuman; stable and sane like Sita, or righteous and right like Lord Rama. Forget about squashing the ten sins on Vijaya Dashami, we are heightening them to levels that is taking a toll on earth, on our planet, on ourselves and our children.

With the rise in our numbers and greater rise in our greed and insatiability, we just want more and more of things that we can easily do without. We want more shops and restaurants and malls at the cost of an enormous loss of green cover. It does not matter to us that these places see feeble footfall most of the time and that we cannot afford half the things peddled in them.

Look at the way our housing is coming up. Whether it is the erstwhile green valley of Dehradun or the pristine parts of our National Capital Region or our hill towns like Simla, Ooty, Mussoorie or Mukhteshwar or the beach resorts from not-so-heavenly-now Goa or Kodaikanal. We have been felling the trees en masse so much that all we see is the ugly monstrosity of the concrete jungle.

Who is to be blamed for what we breathe? (Photo: Reuters)

With no logic or concern, and just to make quick, easy, ill-earned money, we have weakened the soil by uprooting trees and constructing structures that fall like nine pins at the slightest nudge from nature. And when sections of us get wiped out by floods and earthquakes, we go back to doing what we have excelled in. We blame our fates and curse or cajole the Almighty to give us respite when we are being mean and merciless ourselves.

We make landfills out of our mountain sides. We leave our waste willfully wherever it is convenient to us — on our streets, in our parks, right outside our homes, in our tourist spots, into our drains.

We consider our rivers holy. We worship the Ganga and revere the Yamuna. Yet, we will let our body waste, the semi-burnt, half-decomposed bodies of our dead, and the harmful and carcinogenic afterlife of our chaotic celebrations, and irrational rituals float and sink into the womb of the rivers that we go to wash our sins in. It cannot get more ironic than that.

Washing our hands off our wrongdoings, we then begin to blame the government for providing us unclean air and water and perilous places for us and our young.

We pollute everything around uncontrollably, unceasingly. We then create new jobs for the government to get into large scale clean up drives that we get taxed huge amounts for. We offer money-making and scam-rich opportunities on a platter to the corrupt by our exploits that are death-cold and callous. We happily create a cesspool of filth, we take a dive into our ignoble dirt, we get caught in the arrogant algae of our irresponsible acts and then we cry foul and scream for help.

We are collectively turning more into Ravanas and annihilating our environment. (Photo: Reuters)

For how long will we expect and demand the government to pick up after us? When will we stop asking a Modi or a Kejriwal or anybody else to clean up our mess? Sadly, in a manner of deep mental numbness, we continue to park the blame elsewhere.

My German Shepherd girl has been cowering since the last few days at the onslaught of deafening noise. In spite of being brave and strong, she cannot take the noise pollution. I will need to train her to put the ear muffs — a first for us and her — and reduce the debilitating noise that plays havoc on animals and us alike.

My first German Shepherd daughter had conditioned herself such that she could not be bothered about it. And my Labrador son would literally lift his hind leg and piss on the mess, uncaring about the pitiable sound and sight. I realise that this is how we have become — conditioned to our collective misdeeds and malpractices, oblivious to the demon we have created, uncaring about even our immediate surroundings and completely not bothered about the downhill slope we have begun sliding on.

We are worsening the air and the land and the water much beyond the danger marks and ensuring that our health takes a stronger beating, that we have no peace of mind, that our lives are a struggle and that we are leaving a world which will become uninhabitable for our future generations.

Let us please ask ourselves, who is to blame for what we breathe, what we drink and eat and where we tread!

Or better still, let us remain indifferent, heartless and unfeeling and enjoy the downward ride because the view is completely different from when we started out.

And what do you know! This may well be the last season of revelry for you or me!

Happy Dusshehra and Diwali folks!!! It won’t remain the festival of lights for long!

Last updated: October 21, 2018 | 17:34
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