BOOM. A weird, shrieking sound followed the loud bang. I could suddenly sense his body getting stiff with a jerk, and then tremble with panic. I looked into his eyes and I could see immense, helpless fear. Slowly and meekly, my usually mischievous, happy-with-life pet dog slithered under the bed and curled into a shivering ball. I was going to write this week about the debate on intolerance and the whole ‘to-eat-or-not-to-eat beef’ controversy. But you know what, I don’t care anymore. We are happy outraging and debating for hours on which meat to not eat, and which award to not keep, but have barely any concern for the insensitive way we are leading our lives. Diwali is round the corner, and I can already see the gleam in the eyes of those who are going to base their level of achievement in life by the noise and smoke they can produce in one evening of festivities. But I hope they also see the flicker of fear in the eyes of the poor animals - pet or stray - each time a noisy cracker goes off, or the sparks from a ball of fire burns the life out of them.
All those who are ready to express outrage thinking that I’m against celebrations, please hold your anger horses. I, too, like most of you, have grown up loving and enjoying Diwali. Yes, including the ceremonial bursting of crackers. But just as you enjoy the experience of going to a restaurant to have a meal but hate it when some ill-mannered guests on the next table are too loud or rude, I hate it when people forget their manners and common sense while coming out to burst crackers on Diwali. In the name of no-holds barred celebration, what some of us indulge in, is unadulterated disregard for others around us, especially the poor, hapless animals. Here’s what I want to suggest so that we, as well as they, get to celebrate a calmer Diwali this year…
1 Understand their fear: I’m pretty sure we all studied it in school but those who clearly failed at science in addition to moral science must know that animals, especially dogs and cats, are several times more sensitive to sound than human beings. So what is ‘loud’ for you and your evil uncle, is UNBEARABLE for the dog at home and worse still, the one on the street. They tremble and shake unbelievably with each aaloo or gola or what-the-hell bomb you burst. Try and understand their fear. Try and live it. If nothing else, imagine your spouse or child loudly banging the door each time they enter or leave the room. Now think that you are paying money to hear a much louder sound, and like a fool, you are also clapping and cheering your stupidity in doing so. Yaar crackers toh woh bhi hote hain jo at least dekhne mein toh achhe lage when we burn them. At least you get the visual pleasure. And you don’t have to bear the burden of a helpless, silent animal cursing you on the day of your biggest festival.
2 Have the basic compassion: TV debates mein baad mein chilla lena, first show humanity by shouting at those who derive pleasure in throwing burning crackers at the poor stray dogs. I mean c’mon, is there any way you can justify that? I find it more offensive than a lot of things that seem to hurt our sentiments, taken together. In the midst of getting angry about hazaar other things, please get a little angry at people being heartless. Vaise, I love the fact that most schools nowadays teach kids to celebrate Diwali in an eco-friendly way. Wish they would also focus on the plight of animals during festivals and give tips to the kids on helping the animals stay safe during celebrations.
3 Help, help, help: You need not be a part of an NGO to sometimes do good deeds in life. One such opportunity comes during Diwali. When there are uncountable burn accidents that human beings get involved in during the festivities, you can only imagine how those animals that don’t have the luxury of hiding under a bed must be suffering. Aur unki toh jaan bhi itni sasti hai that there are hardly any medical facilities to take care of them during burn emergencies. If possible, give shelter to such helpless strays in your compound for the evening. Give them food and water, and if possible, a place to sneak under when they shudder at the loud explosions. Trust me, whether you’re an animal lover or not, it’ll give you more satisfaction and happiness than any other celebration. And if you are one of those lucky ones who have a pet adding unconditional joy to your home every day, take out the time to hold them close when they get scared. Or just give them the comfort of hiding in a corner where they feel safe and protected. And puhleez, don’t make the mistake of trying to force them to be all brave. They are not like your kids who you sometimes end up punishing even for confiding their genuine fears in you. Just let them be. It’ll make your Diwali the blast that it deserves to be. Pun intended.
Sonal Kalra is a secret collecter of gola bombs. Especially those that have photos of WWE wrestlers on them.. Someday she’ll have a real blast! Mail your feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org, or facebook.com/sonal.kalra. Follow on Twitter @sonalkalra.