I hate crackers.They're so loud! And they pollute our beloved environment. They also leave so much garbage behind. Worse, the sweepers are usually on holiday the next day. It's disgusting. Say no to crackers, I say!
Did that sound sincere at all? Ok, I'm lying.
You see, I was born in the late '80s and grew up in what was the worst decade for our habits. Crackers were a minor thing. We were worse on many counts. Until 'Dil Chahta Hai' came along, we were into meaningless movies with a gyrating Govinda; before Honey Sting started with his tiresome tirade, we had songs worse than porn; even furniture of the decade looked boring and similar (board plus 'sunmica'); and cars were either overly romanticised blobs, or Maruti's matchboxes and Fiat's cheap rattlers. Technically, people call it the liberalisation decade, a time of transition. We did not know that much. Heck, I did not even know who Manmohan Singh was, though I did recognise PV Narasimha Rao from his perpetual pout.
We did, however, celebrate the decade by spending liberally on Diwali. Rising early to accompany our dads to get sweets, we usually bought 15 or more boxes. People used to interact with people offline then, and exchanging sweets was a preferred mode of sharing affection. The sweets, too, were proper, dripping-with-sugar-and-saccharine sweets; not dry fruits in faux-metal cases or biscuits and juice boxes. Spending money was certainly in, so kids would get some hundreds to burn away on crackers.
I used to get only a couple of hundreds, not because my dad is some anti-pollution type, but because he thought `200 was enough anyway. I made the best of it by buying crackers after 7pm, in the two hours when they no longer cost a bomb. Having stocked the ammunition - chakri, anaar, Laila-Majnu, rockets, some bullets, and a dozen of the mighty 'sootli bumb' - I and other maniacs would go home, deposit the polythene bags in a corner, and head for dinner.
This was the waiting period, during which we prayed, and filled ourselves with sugar. The trick was in starting late and finishing late. Despite our best efforts, though, we ended up bursting the last of our kukkad packets by midnight. Kids in that decade used to get sleepy.
Not Lovely Sharma.
A few years older than us, our neighbours' son was brutal. He would wake up just before dawn, climb up the roof, and lock the stairway so that his parents could not come after him. Then, he would settle in a chair and put his feet up on a stool, while lighting and tossing one sootli bumb after another - no less than 200 of them - into the street. The head-spinning booms lasted an hour, the headache much longer. The whole mohalla - grown-ups, that is - hated him for his yearly ritual. But the kids were just jealous. How did he get the patience to wait until dawn, while we could barely wait for Diwali to start going boom-bam-woosh? Lovely was a life lesson.
Sadly, we all grow up. Bursting crackers is not only a kid thing now, but also grossly uncivilised. Mere mention of a pataka can lead you into something like this:
Don't you know crackers pollute?
I do. But…
What? Don't you read the newspaper?
Well, I work for one. Reading requires effort.
Fine, but aren't you on Facebook? Didn't you see that Twitter post about crackers hurting dogs? Didn't you see the size of the hole in the ozone layer? Did no one in your 'friend list' share that post about kids saying, 'Papa, don't buy me crackers'? Are you plain stupid?
Fine! I am sorry, OK! I will not buy crackers. Fine!
I am tempted to cite figures about pollution that underline how Diwali revelry is merely a drop in the ocean, a one-night transgression, mere stupidity, no crime. I can underline how more diesel vehicles have increased air pollution, and more vehicles overall have increased noise. If Chandigarh is a tad better - which it is on all counts, so let's not talk of the Utopia alone - Ludhiana is a classic example of an industrial city where crackers get much more attention than illegal factory chimneys. But this is a losing argument. Of course, we must do our bit, even if the government does not.
All I seek is that we do not forsake Diwali altogether. Let's at least stop this madness of sending impersonal text messages, exchanging silly crockery items and chocolate cookies. Can someone please bring some chamcham to my house the next time?
As for crackers, well, I may have given up, but there are still many people who are not bogged down by societal guilt. God bless the rebels!