Whether you are a social butterfly or a society-shunning hermit, WhatsApp doesn’t discriminate. Into every unsuspecting inbox on every festival descend an overwhelming number of greetings and good wishes, warming our hearts even as they choke our phones.
Most of these are the mass-produced variety, running along similar scripts, as distant relatives, barely-know-each-other colleagues, school juniors, college seniors let us know that they wish Goddess Laxmi blesses us and our family with good health and prosperity.
The sticker-messages this year were cool. (Photo: YouTube)
Good health and prosperity are great, of course. Desirable all year round. But as Diwali changes — turning from a festival of lights to a competitive cracker-bursting fest, and an exercise of thumbing our noses at the Supreme Court, even as we struggle to breathe from them — it is time our greetings and wishes evolve too.
Here are 5 Diwali-specific wishes we hope WhatsApp message writers — the greatest literary artistes of our times — mass produce before the next festival:
May you figure out what green crackers are
The Honourable Supreme Court of India told us this time to burst only green crackers in Dlehi-NCR. We all wish to honour the court’s wishes. The slight hitch being that nobody seems to know what green crackers are, or where might one find them.
I asked my neighbourhood firecracker sellers. They helpfully showed me fuljhadis that would sparkle green when lit.
I asked my scholarly neighbour. He, rather less helpfully, told me “green” and “firecrackers” were mutually exclusive.
I asked merry boys of my locality out bursting crackers. They ran away.
Delhi: Sadar Bazar Welfare Association is staging a protest against the SC order on green crackers, by putting firecrackers inside green vegetables. President of the Association HS Chhabra says "We don't even know what green crackers are. There is no green cracker in the market." pic.twitter.com/xKso23wtUe— ANI (@ANI) November 7, 2018
We don't know what green crackers are. When we asked them (SHOs), they said they'll give us a list of crackers. But the next day they said it'll take 2 more days. There is no green cracker in the market. This should've been done 1 yr in advance: Sadar Bazar Welfare Assn President pic.twitter.com/qm3ZVNeTAL— ANI (@ANI) November 7, 2018
So yeah, by the next Diwali, I wish my humble self — and more importantly, firecracker manufacturers and sellers — to be educated about what exactly are green firecrackers, how to manufacture them, and if they can be sold at the same price that regular crackers are sold.
Or, that somebody comes up with a simpler way to keep celebrations — and the celebrators — alive.
More Aunty-Patakha Squads to you
Along with colour constraints, the powers-that-be also try to put time limits on firecracker-bursting. But what happens if revelers do not adhere to the time limit? The answer to this question gets lost in the din of firecrackers, that’s what.
Now, we can’t realistically expect our police force to man neighbourhoods and catch firecracker deadline violators. Actually, we aren’t even sure of what the protocol is in such situations — are the violators to be fined, arrested, in the vintage Delhi style, given a tight one kaan ke neeche?
Better then, to not involve the law in what the citizenry can take care of. A far more effective, and formidable, anti-patakha unit would be Aunty Squads. Those worthy ladies who always know who goes where and does what with whom at what time. Whose stares are enough to make grown men quake. Who wield immense authority without having any.
Let these women patrol streets after the deadline. Not one errant firecracker-burster will escape their eyes. And assault our ears. Or noses.
May fewer children make, or burst crackers
The firecrackers that parents buy their children to poison their respiratory system are often manufactured by other, less fortunate children, whose bodies are also poisoned by the crackers, but without getting the joy of watching them burst.
May the next Diwali be kinder to him. (Photo: Reuters/file)
According to Nobel Peace prize awardee Kailash Satyarthi, lakhs of children are employed in firecracker factories in Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan, and Assam and Tamil Nadu.
Of course, if the fate of our own children does not move us, the lives of other kids in a world far removed from ours might not. But festivals are about making wishes.
And to them. (Photo: Reuters/file)
What if, before the next Diwali, all these kids are magically freed from their exploitative factories? It will mean fewer firecrackers in the markets, and so fewer colourful bags of poison to harm our kids with.
Wishful thinking? Well, why not?
Wish you a cleaner afterlife
On the morning after Diwali, Delhi woke up to an air quality index of 999. According to this article in DailyO, “almost a third of pollution monitors for measuring PM2.5 levels have now stopped working across the monitoring stations in Delhi because their range covers from zero to 999 μg/m3 (micrograms per cubic metre) and Delhi’s levels have outrun the pollution monitors.”
Around Diwali, air pollution at least gets some attention. The rest of the year, Delhiites, and indeed, people across India, wheeze and sniffle their way through life, blaming allergies, cold, fate, destiny, but not the real culprit — toxic air.
Things have reached a point where, to not get poison into our bodies, we might have to stop breathing.
May your afterlife look like this. (Photo: Reuters/file)
And awake into a green land of pure air. We can do without heaven and Eden. For my afterlife, any neigbourhood garden with clean air will do.
May you get the suicidal zest for life your neighbour has
Death will come when it wants to. In the meantime, as Nargis in Mother India told us: “Hai Zeher Zindagi To Use Peena Hi Padega”. While you drain the poisoned chalice that is life in this country, may you get the suicidal — and homicidal — zest for life the cracker-bursters of this land are blessed with.
It takes a special kind of courage to burst crackers wearing masks. (Photo: Twitter)
It takes a special kind of courage to burst firecrackers when every breath you — the children, the elderly people in your family — take is a struggle.
It takes an unfathomable zest to enjoy the light and sparkles of crackers while viewed through a thick grey haze.
If you are doing all this and more, more power to you. But even more power to those around you.
Court orders, newspapers, common sense, lived experiences have so far failed in teaching people that pollution is dangerous, and controlling it is their responsibility. Our only hope now is WhatsApp. Hopefully, the forward-writers are reading this.