As I’m sitting inside my home, I hear the noise of crackers, every few seconds, and occasionally I also hear a faint yelp from the dogs. There are a lot of things that you can do during Diwali, the Indian festival of lights, but we resort to doing something that harms not just us, but every single person in the surrounding area. I accept, till the age of 11 I too was an enthusiastic kid who thought bursting crackers was the best way to celebrate Diwali. However, thanks to my English teacher then, my perspective on how to celebrate changed.
In the year 2013, more 80 people from just Chennai were admitted in Hospitals with eye injuries. And more than half of these people were little kids. Second to eye injuries come burn injuries, which I hope you can imagine how painful it can be. In Ahmedabad, over 45 incidents of fire were reported in the mere 2 days of Diwali in 2015. The 108-ambulance service received more than 3,800 calls from across Gujarat in these two days. All the calls were related to either fire accidents or about respiratory complications caused due to the smoke of fire crackers.
When I cite the word ‘pollution’, most of you would haughtily reply saying, ‘We cause pollution every day. This is just for a day or two’. Yes, true, but the percentage that it causes in a day or two is alarmingly high. The pollution level increases 5 to 8 times above the safety standard these two days. Two practices define Diwali — lighting earthen lamps all over the house, and setting off firecrackers. India produces nearly $38 million worth of firecrackers every year, most of which are sold in the weeks leading up to Diwali. Every Indian child grows up knowing the names of each different kind. Many Indian children, though, are too familiar with these crackers — because they make them. I won’t divulge into the ugly details of cheap child labour that is practised, you all know it already.
Let’s rather talk about how you can ideally celebrate Diwali? By being with your family, and if that is not possible, with your close friends. Make sweets, have as much as you want, play games, lose gracefully, go out and watch the latest block buster movies, call up your grandmother and grandfather to wish them (it means more to them than to you). But of course, if you are an ignorant person who is apathetic towards the environment, at least do the following when you are celebrating Diwali with fire-crackers:
1. Make sure you buy Fireworks from a licensed shop and keep them stored in a closed box.
2. Store crackers away from sources of fire or ignition; also, keep them away from the reach of toddlers. They are your children, have some sense.
3. Burst crackers in open spaces like playgrounds and fields.
4. While lighting the crackers, stand at an arm’s length, away from the Cracker. Safety comes first.
5. Discard used fireworks in a bucket of water this way you can avoid people from stepping on to and hurting their feet from used fireworks which are thrown on the ground.
6. Keep buckets of water and blankets ready, in case a fire breaks out. And yes, it will.
7. Wear thick cotton clothes while bursting crackers, so as to ensure maximum safety from fire. And wear footwear, please. Again, your safety.
8. While igniting Diwali aerial fireworks like rockets, ensure that they are not facing any opening like a window, door or an open building gate. If the rockets zoom into them, it will cause fire accidents.
9. As much as possible, avoid bursting more than one firecracker at a time. Especially avoid serial crackers.
10. Diwali doesn’t get over with just bursting crackers. It is your responsibility to clean it up the next day, which none of us do. This year would be a good time to start.
And most importantly, STAY AWAY FROM THE STRAYS. Dogs are our companions; they give us nothing but happiness and love. The stray dogs are poor creatures who cannot even speak for themselves, all they look for is some scraps of food occasionally. You don’t have to give them food if you don’t want to. That’s your personal mindset. At least don’t hurt them with your disgusting act. Especially for those who have pets, keep them inside your home please. And as much as possible, you don’t burst crackers yourself. You know how it harms the little ones. And this applies not just to dogs, but all kinds of animals.
Diwali is a time to be with the loved ones. Help around your home as much as you can. Do not send forwards that end with something like, “(((((BOOM))))) Happy Diwali!”, because that’s not what Diwali represents. It takes a certain while for people’s mindset to change. For me, it took a 30-minute-long speech given by my teacher. For someone else, all it takes would be to lose their eye (I’m not joking, I read an article just yesterday). Do you want to belong to the latter? It’s up to you. However you celebrate, be safe, be happy. Happy Diwali!