Di­wali cel­e­bra­tions, the mean­ing­ful way

Hindustan Times (Lucknow) - Live - - MY CITY - Dr Gour­das Choud­huri

It is around this time ev­ery year when Di­wali is round the cor­ner that ev­ery In­dian finds faced with the ques­tion: are you a tra­di­tion­al­ist or a prag­ma­tist? It is time to weigh the banes and boons of rit­u­als we prac­tice and their ef­fects on our health and en­vi­ron­ment, and to dis­cover new ways to do old things bet­ter.

We can’t run away from the fact that crack­ers and fire­works cause harm to health and en­vi­ron­ment no mat­ter how hard we try to jus­tify us­ing them by in­vok­ing ‘tra­di­tion’ or ‘con­cern’ for the many who work in the in­dus­try as sup­port­ive ar­gu­ments.

Air pol­lu­tion wors­ens sev­eral-fold around Di­wali. Lev­els of nox­ious gases such as sul­phur­diox­ide go up by 200 per­cent. Crack­ers spew ni­trous ox­ide, car­bon monox­ide, fumes and pol­lu­tants to as­ton­ish­ing lev­els, trig­ger­ing smoke and fog, as the AQI (Air Qual­ity In­dex) crosses 400 in many north In­dian cities.

The air-pol­lu­tants cause smart­ing of eyes, sore­ness of the throat, cough and wheez­ing. It is a bad time for those with bronchial asthma as they of­ten come down with acute at­tacks at this time. For some, this is the time when they have their first at­tacks of asthma.

“Tra­di­tion­al­ists” might be sur­prised to know that when Lord Ram re­turned to Ay­o­d­hya after de­feat­ing Ra­vana and the Deep­awali cel­e­bra­tions be­gan, there were no fire­works or crack­ers then. \These were dis­cov­ered by the Chi­nese many cen­turies later and found their way to In­dia with the Mughals. It is there­fore a tra­di­tion that got “ac­quired” much later.

Then, how can we cel­e­brate Di­wali mean­ing­fully?

Stud­ies have shown that fam­i­lies and friends who fast, feast, pray and cel­e­brate fes­ti­vals to­gether, more of­ten stay to­gether! Fam­ily rit­u­als in­volve sym­bolic com­mu­ni­ca­tion and help gen­er­ate feel­ings of ‘this is who we are’ as a group. Tra­di­tions also pro­vide con­ti­nu­ity in mean­ing across gen­er­a­tions. There is of­ten an emo­tional im­print where the in­di­vid­ual may re­play it in mem­ory to re­cap­ture some of the pos­i­tive ex­pe­ri­ence.

If you want to try a new ex­pe­ri­ence this Di­wali, here are a few ideas you could con­sider:

1.Col­lect all the sweets and eats that you re­ceive as gifts, and throw a Di­wali lunch or snack party at an or­phan­age or slum school. You will cher­ish the smiles of the kids for the rest of your life!

2.Try mak­ing fruit sal­ads as eats for guests, rather than the high calo­rie sweets from the mar­ket. Your guests will re­mem­ber you as a role model.

Di­wali, the fore­most fes­ti­val of most In­di­ans should there­fore be cel­e­brated with great emo­tional pas­sion. These are the oc­ca­sions that we tend to re­mem­ber in life, help us ac­quire our sense of iden­tity, and make us re­al­ize that there is mean­ing be­yond work and duty in life.

Wish you a happy Deep­awali that lights up your hearts and lives!

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