This festive season, The Alternative asks you to look at Diwali for what it is really meant to be about- spreading joy, love and laughter – and not a wasteful, harmful and an inhumane festive revelry.
It would be the easiest thing in the world to believe that we Indians lack conscience. Otherwise how do we let children die in firecracker making facilities year after year and yet still burst crackers with such joy? While the government still decides on steps to make these factories safer, we can look at way to celebrate eco friendly Diwali.
1. Give: Your time and the money you would have spent on crackers. And it’s not as hard as it sounds. 16 year old Sriya from Chennai has an even better idea. “After the traditional cleaning at home, I always have stuff I know I won’t use again,” she says. “I take them to the various NGOs in the city who can use it for the children or old people they serve.” She is sick of hearing about children getting burnt or injured making crackers. She stopped bursting then when she was 10. Her mum gave an option. “We would spend about Rs 1000 on crackers,” she says. “When the children didn’t want them, I started donating this to charity. I feel we have finally understood the spirit of the festival.”
2. Go natural: Ruma Ghosh of Kolkata is an English teacher in a leading school in the city. Every Diwali her class makes the lamps that lights their house during the festival. “They have fun and learn useful skills,” she says. The last two Diwalis saw her invite her students to her house to eat sweets and make lamps. “That was 15 students less bursting crackers that day,” she says.
She also has a new project for her students this time. “Instead of crackers, we are going to plant trees,” she says. “The children will gather in the school and pay with the mud and water while planting the sapling instead of causing more pollution with crackers.”
3. Save animals: Hemlata (STD XI) of Chennai was sick last Diwali. As she lay in bed, missing the fun, her dog gave her company. “The noise from crackers scares him,” she says. “I could see how happy he was that I wasn’t out there doing things that he hates so much.” She is going cracker free this Diwali and also volunteering this Diwali at an animal shelter.
4. Cut out the noise: Kanak from Kolkatta has a good reason to go without crackers. “Diwali means holidays for every member of my beloved family. It’s a time to get together, share concerns and simply talk,” he says. “We rarely get the whole family together. When we do I want to hear is their voices, not get deafened by noisy crackers.” This Diwali cut out the noise.
5. Adding colour: “Crackers add noise, rangolis add colour,” believes Sudha Raghunathan. She bursts no crackers. Instead in the light of handmade earthen lamps she makes the biggest rangoli with the kids in her area.
6. Community celebrations: The Triparna housing Society in Kolkatta has come up with a way. They gather together and celebrate the festival as one community instead of individual celebrations and use smokeless environmentally friendly crackers made out of recycled paper. These crackers produce bright colors and little smoke when they burst. “They are more expensive than the conventional ones,” says Puja Secretary Rani Basu. “But since it’s a single celebration we all pay towards the costs and limit it to about three hours in the evening.”