I’ve been noticing over the last few Diwalis that midgets have been coming out of the inflammable woodwork and protesting against bursting crackers and lighting fireworks. They wave placards violently when cameras are pointed at them, less violently when it’s getting a bit hot under the collar, even during these October mornings.
On closer inspection, these ‘small people’ turn out to be children, mostly schoolkids in their uniforms, raging against the adult world that is polluting the world that they’re supposed to inherit in a few years’ time. Fireworks, they insist, create smoke that makes television anchors reading out pollution levels in the city distraught and unhappy.
Now, there were always a few ‘Save the World-Save the Whale’ nerds like these righteous kids during our school years. But they never reached the critical mass required to make Diwali a fireworks-less, cracker-less and, yes, smoke-less, grand activity. This year, it seems a certain line has been crossed, and if we don’t fight back — with our stock of Chinese crackers, rockets and chocolate bombs — Diwali may just finally turn out to be a ‘let’s have a candlelight vigil’ affair.
The young anti-cracker lobby has also got sophisticated. Earlier this week, for instance, there was a bunch of schoolgirls shouting and waving the by-now-familiar slogan: ‘Say no to crackers’. But rather unsubtly along with this rather shameless life-affirming demand, they were making noises against cigarettes, alcohol and, ahem, drugs. One young lady — probably a head girl or something — even had a placard that ‘cleverly’ asked the question: ‘Holy or harmful Diwali?’
There was a time when festivals like Diwali were really an excuse to let it hang out, before returning to the banality of everyday life. The whole point was that the elders, in a subtle reversal of role model-building, would drink, burst crackers, gamble and generally be a loofa about town to drive home one single message: life is serious so don’t take it too seriously. Not any more.
Now it seems that with children insisting that there are immediate pleasures to be sought in saving the world, pleasure may fast become a sinful activity. Which is a shame. Not because the world doesn’t need to be saved. But because kids may be turning into monsters who want to save this loud, noisy chaos-filled world and take it over one day.