The Right To Breathe
On the festive morning of Diwali, instead of waking up to the symphonious sound of chirping birds (though this doesn’t happen on other mornings either), I woke up to the loud noises of firecrackers, right outside my house. And mind you, this is despite the nationwide ban on the sale and purchase of these explosives. Like all things India, a few people turned this into a religious argument and rode on the horse of identity politics!
Anyways, moving on to the facts. A day after millions celebrated Diwali — and by “celebrating”, I mean attempting to turn this place into a gas chamber, NOT cleaning and decorating their houses, NOT making rangolis, NOT Lakshmi Puja — across the country, pollution levels in Delhi and its neighboring areas soared as people defied the ban on firecrackers. The already bad pollution levels in Delhi, measured by PM 2.5, jumped almost 200 points overnight to 525, a level classified as “severe” and one in which all outdoor activities are discouraged. So, no, you can’t walk your dog today.
Now, let’s talk about the so-called, permissible, ‘green crackers’! Many people have been proudly leaning into the fact that bursting green crackers is perfectly fine because of the “significantly reduced” emissions and noise intensity that these “mild avatars” of traditional crackers cause. But picture this: a population of over a billion people in India, everyone bursting “green” crackers. It’s obviously better but still not our best. When did Diwali become about destroying our own home? According to what I’ve learned these past years about Indian traditions and festivals, I feel like it’s quite the opposite.
What I don’t understand is — irrespective of religious affiliations — how can the people of a country of nature worshippers praise anything that harms the environment? Apart from the damage, these crackers inflict on the environment, why are people blind to the distress they cause to infants, the elderly, AND the ailing?
What’s worse is the act of knowingly harming the vulnerable because who doesn’t know bursting crackers is detrimental? Diwali is a festival that symbolizes the victory of light over darkness, truth over falsehood, and righteousness over treachery. So, why not forge a new beginning or rather revive the ‘original’ celebration!?