The modern sparkle in age-old celebrations.
As the autumn air gives way to the balmy advent of winter, it seems as if Nature is extremely eager to celebrate the festival season with us. There is a pleasant nip in the air, fresh green adorns trees and the perfume of flowers spreads like a dream all around .
In homes too, the ambience is at once celebratory and joyous. Delicious mouthwatering fragrance of ghee, cardamom and roasting besan float through the home. Children prance around in new clothes with fire crackers clutched in excited fists, the women of the house bustle around in rustling silks, jasmine strung in their hair…tiny clay lamps create glittering rows of twinkling lights on garden walls
Well, this was the scenario of the festive season some years ago…but now a sea change has taken place. There is bling and ostentation everywhere, money is poured into festivities more than care and love; the gentle intimacy of this special time has been taken over by commercialisation….
Is all this bad and unwanted? Of course not. Moving with the times and the demands and choices of today’s generation is very essential for all of us, however much we think nostalgically of bygone days.
“You know what?”remarked my friend meditatively as we pushed our way through the shopping crowd of a mall. “The famous saying…there is nothing more constant in life than change….is particularly appropriate for festival celebrations in our country.” “What do you mean?”i asked. She threw her hand toward the glittering show window of a garment outlet, filled completely with glittering, fashion dresses and menwear.
“Remember the days when our new Diwali clothes were flowered cotton frocks and khaki shorts? Now, new clothes mean all this!
AS WE NEARED OUR DESTINATION, WE WERE TAKEN ABACK TO SEE IN THE DISTANCE, FIREWORKS RISING TO SPANGLE THE NIGHT SKIES WITH A THOUSAND STARS AND STREAMS OF LIGHT. AS WE DROVE CLOSER WE HEARD THE CRASH AND BOOMS OF FIRECRACKERS AS WELL…
“Sweets were laddoos and
shakkar paras made in the family kitchen which would be wafting out yummy smells for over a week...these would be distributed to a few neighbours and served to visitors...but now, huge boxes of sweets bought wholesale from halwais are loaded into cars and delivered to scores of people…. by drivers… “And lights were…” “What you mean to say is that simple celebrations have been taken over by ostentation…,” I interrupted her.
“Yes,” she laughed. “Don’t you miss the good old days?”
“I do,” I agreed, “but I like the new-gen festivities too…you have to admit,it is all so much grander and so much fun too…the digital age has changed everything, you know…so, let’s stop being stuck in the past fuddy duddies.” “Ok…let’s see how much that fab anarkali costs…i simply love it.” And linking her arm in mine, she led me into the shop…
I remembered our little exchange a week later as my husband and I drove over to a good friend’s Diwali gettogether at a farmhouse.
As we neared our destination, we were taken aback to see in the distance, fireworks rising to spangle the night skies with a thousand stars and streams of light. As we drove closer we heard the crash and booms of firecrackers as well…
My husband and I exchanged surprised glances.
“What’s happened?” he asked wonderingly. “Prakash is a vociferous supporter of a nonpolluting Diwali celebrations….but here…?”
I shrugged. “He does not seem to believe in practising what he preaches,” I remarked a bit caustically. Minutes later, our host welcomed us warmly and led us into his garden which looked like a fairyland; in the background, his house shone with multi-coloured electric bulbs; people milled around tables groaning under the weight of plates loaded with delicacies .
From the back garden, came the cacophony of firecrackers as these shot upwards through the leaves of huge trees.
“Why are you lighting crackers, yaar?” asked my husband accusingly. “Have you even forgotten the severe bronchitis attack your little daughter suffered last year at this festival time.”
“Come with me, and stop attacking me before checking out the facts,” chuckled our host, pulling my husband’s arm and leading him to the back of the house. I followed,quite consumed by curiosity.
Indeed, what we saw took our breath away….
STARS, WHIRLS AND BURSTS
Huge boomboxes positioned around the grounds emitted loud bangs and crashes, simulating firework sounds. And in the centre were strategically placed apparatus which released strobe digital lights upward into the dark moonless night. Stars, whirls and bursts of coloured lights….so perfectly replicated a fireworks display that we could just stare in wonder and appreciation.
“Satisfied? That I am not messing up the pollution levels of our city?” laughed Prakash as small kids ran around us in excited play.
“But..but….” stuttered my husband looking around in amazement. “How…what?” “We are living in the 21st century, yaar… so let’s take advantage of the blessings of technology….” quipped Prakash.
Have today’s festival celebrations lost the human touch? Are people more interested in impressing others with the grandeur of their gifts and celebrations than sparing a thought for the reasons behind all the joyous activities.
A cousin recently told me about a family she knows which celebrated Diwali in a very special way.
“Lighting a home for them means lighting the home of some underprivileged person too,” she said. “So this festival season, they got an electrical connection to the home of their maid, who had not been able to get it as she had no money for the expenses involved in this…
“And they distributed sweets in two orphanages in the city, instead of in homes of their rich friends. There were toys too for the little recipients. In all this, their two young children were happily involved, imbibing great unforgettable lessons on sharing and giving.”
What a wonderful and meaningful way to celebrate Diwali and New Year, I thought to myself.
In all the festival fervour, surely a few dissident voices are often raised high and loud in protest. A neighbour of ours, a crusty old bachelor always goes ballistic when we begin preparations for Dasshera and Diwali.
“Waste of money,”he shouts over the garden wall,waving an angry fist in the air. “Waste of time and energy…which is better spent on more vital things.”
And when we protest, he goes on. “How can you revel and rejoice when there is such a lot of poverty all around us? It is criminal…all these festivities.”
He has a point, of course, but what would life be without these little interludes of happy celebrations? We need this to feel rejuvenated, to connect with the people we love and to let our hair down in this stress-filled world? As one woman put it succinctly, “Festivities add spice to our daily simple daal of life!” Wise words, indeed.
HAVE TODAY’S FESTIVAL CELEBRATIONS LOST THE HUMAN TOUCH? ARE PEOPLE MORE INTERESTED IN IMPRESSING OTHERS WITH THE GRANDEUR OF THEIR GIFTS AND CELEBRATIONS THAN SPARING A THOUGHT FOR THE REASONS BEHIND ALL THE JOYOUS ACTIVITIES.
Common sense is the measure of the possible; it is composed of experience and prevision; it is calculation applied to life.