It is the time for festivals now; we just celebrated the Navaratri festival, before that it was Ganesh Chaturthi and now Deepavali is around the corner and Christmas is not far away. Even though these festivals are being celebrated from time immemorial as per traditions handed down from generation to generation, the customs remaining unchanged over the years, the way we celebrate these festivals has undergone change – as someone has rightly said the only permanent thing in life is change.
The celebration of this festival of lights has seen big changes in just a generation, but what hasn’t changed is the love and warmth it still exudes. Bursting crackers till our ears revolted. Gorging on ghee-dripping gulab jamuns and laddoos. Reciting aartis in front of Lakshmi and Ganesha till we felt assured we’d expressed our gratitude. Getting dressed in rich, traditional clothes till we’d got as many colours as the rainbow on us. Drawing up intricate rangoli patterns till the guests felt truly welcomed. Filling up homes with the aroma of incense sticks and fresh flowers. Preparing lavish dinners till the pots and pans groaned with spices, vegetables, and condiments. Lighting up the home with candles and diyas till every single corner reflected light and love and the atmosphere was redolent with celebration. These were the markers of Diwali.
But all this was a long time ago… When we didn’t know that crackers were made by children in dark sweatshops. Or that ghee choked up our arteries. Until the Chinese exploded the neighbourhood markets with fancy LED lights. When we weren’t aware that pollution levels in the air were going up with each passing day. Or we hadn’t had a bite of scrumptious Korean, Thai or Mediterranean cuisines. When we didn’t care for outfits carrying an international designer tag or didn’t think it was important for the business to spend time with partners and clients. When aartis didn’t come loaded on CDs, DVDs, and YouTube.
But when did the planet get so ill and gray? When did wine become our national festive drink? When did macaroons and donuts replace pakoras and samosas? When did the prayers played on an iPod become louder than the ones we recited ourselves? Another big change that has come in festivities is, of course, to do with the fireworks. Interestingly, firecracker sales have seen a downward trend despite gimmicks like putting the pictures of today’s hot stars on boxes. Many today shy away from buying fireworks because of an increased awareness of how they contribute to pollution and also of the poor conditions in fireworks factories where children work in pathetic conditions.
It is indeed heartwarming to see children make paintings with ‘Say no to crackers’ slogan or go door-to-door and get their neighbours to sign the pledge, too. Even today, at many homes, guests are tempted with a platter adorned with ghar ki mithai or rich traditional treats bought from shops. Helping Mom in the kitchen is a memory dear to many young girls. Clearly, Diwali is seeing new trends in everything that we associated with the festival—right from fireworks to mithais, from outfits to traditions, and adornments to environmental awareness. But can a Skype call with grandparents replace real hugs?
After all, you can’t take the sweetness out of a gulab jamun however you westernize it. Neither can you doubt the brightness of the sparklers when they come packaged in a modern box? And then when festivals are all about the young and old coming together to celebrate why should we not just do that? So this Diwali make sure that you hold on to some things from the past and shake hands with some things of today and tomorrow.
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