By Sandeep Sahu
The fun has gone out of Diwali. And, for that matter, every socio cultural festival that everyone has such wonderful and fond memories about.
Weeks before the actual event, the do- gooders get going counseling, pleading and warning all and sundry - and from every conceivable platform - about the 'harmful' effects of crackers, if it is Diwali and 'chemical colours', if it is Holi. There is simply no escape from these preachers whether you are reading a newspaper, watching television or surfing social media. Even the government appears to be on the side of the spoilsports, badgering us with its sermons about the perils of crackers or chemical colours!
I often wonder if the modern Indian has become so thin-skinned as not to take some chemical colours in his/her stride - and that too just once a year - when s/he has no problem taking in all kinds of harmful chemicals that our food, drink and other items come laced with the whole year round. On my part, I have endured more than my fair share of chemical colours, including the supposedly deadly varnish, and never suffered any of the diseases that our Good Samaritans never tire of warning us about. (I guess the color makers of my childhood used much stronger chemicals than their modern day counterparts do because their impression on the skin lasted at least a week whereas these days the stains appear to vanish with the first shower!)
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As for the danger of mishaps caused by crackers, the closest I came to it was when the stick holding a 'rocket', which was such an integral part of Diwali celebrations, broke from the middle just as I was lighting it and the fire-spitting missile, instead of going heavenwards, headed straight into the living room of our neighbor through an open window! (Let me assure you that nothing happened to the little girl in the room, though I must confess I ran as fast as I could and did not return for the next hour or so to escape the wrath of the house lady, who I addressed as 'mausi'!)
Animal rights activists jump into the fray warning would be cracker bursters about the damage it would do to the poor, innocent creatures. (Thank God the tribe was not there when we were children to prevent us from indulging in the simple, innocent pleasures of tying a packet of 'lanka bana' to the tails of a stray dog and then watch the 'fun' as it ran helter skelter! )
This year, one also has to contend with the histrionics of the hyper nationalists out to teach our big, bad neighbour China a lesson by giving out a clarion call for boycotting Chinese garlands of lights and using our very own earthen diyas instead. On this point, however, I am with those making a case for earthen diyas - not for nationalistic reasons but because they are such a treat to the eyes.
Diwali and Holi, as far as I know, have always been social rather than religious occasions. Just as there is nothing religious about greeting friends and acquaintances Id Mubarak, one doesn't have to be a Hindu to celebrate Diwali and Holi. That is why it it so painful to see some people making it a religious issue - especially on social media - questioning why harmful practices during the festivals of 'other' communities are not targeted by the cracker and colour wary brigade. But then this is perhaps a sign of the times we live in - times when the good old virtues of inter-religious camaraderie and the religion-neutral nature of Indian festivals are anathema to some people.
For God's sake, take religion out of such wonderful occasions like Diwali, Holi and Id. But by all means, do bring some fun back to these important events in the social calendar of the nation!