The Ganesha festival is celebrated every year with a well-organized, resplendent orchestra. The fully-decked stage comes alive at sundown, & fills the air with music, blasted through massive loudspeakers & heard from miles & miles afar. Film music (!!) is played throughout the evening while devotees congregate near the mandap where the idol is installed. During Diwali, crackers worth lakhs of rupees are burst through the day, & night, & sometimes, if you happen to be in some of Bangalore’s notorious neighborhoods, even into the wee hours of the morning.
Circa 2006. Tanvi was born in June. Ganesha festival fell in Sept & Diwali in Nov. She was an infant of a couple of months then. Putting her to sleep became a Herculean task. I used to struggle so much to ensure my tiny baby wouldn’t be scared by all the hullabaloo outside. It dawned on me, while I lay there with my few months old baby tightly held to my bosom, that the crackers during Diwali & the orchestra during Ganesha were such a torture. For the first time ever I hated these festivals.
There were so many people suffering silently, while a few had their loud blasts. Countless patients, old people – sick or otherwise, little babies, sleep deprived nursing mothers & dogs suffered the most. I know for a fact now, that dogs hate diwali. I read somewhere that dogs suffer cardiac arrests or anxiety due to the blare & some even run away from home to escape the shor-sharaba. 3 days (or more) of crackers can make living a hell, not just the sound, the obnoxious smell too. The chemical substances are known to remain in the air for long periods of time making it difficult for animals & plants to breathe. The number of asthma complaints increase around diwali. The nitrogen & sulphur dust affect respiratory system of little children.
I don’t grudge them their enjoyment. Just wish they would be a wee bit sensitive. The thing is, you never know in whose house there is a wailing baby or an ailing man. Sathya’s grandmother had a terrible Diwali this last season. She is touching 90 & is bedridden & so frail that even the noise of a door being shut tight startles her. You can imagine what she must have gone through. Their house is on the main road & even with closed windows & doors there is absolutely no way of escaping all the Diwali dhamaaka.
Till Tanvi turned 2, both these festivals made me extremely uneasy. I used to dread them, thinking how am I going to pull through them this time? Now I am a bit more considerate. I think about others. I pray the noise-lovers stop bursting those bombs & deafening people. Wish there were stricter rules for not creating ruckus after a set time. Wish there were timings set. No loud bombs after say 8.30 p.m. It would be a small relief.
I realized, during my days as a young mother, that lighting diyas isn’t after all just a cliché, heavily endorsed by celebrities. It truly is the way to celebrate the festival. The diyas, the rangolis, the clothes & the smiles – bring it on!! I love Diwali.