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Sunday, Dec 08, 2019

Mark festivals, with joy and care

They are grand and democratic in nature. But be empathetic

editorials Updated: Aug 30, 2019 17:24 IST

Hindustan Times
Devotees carry an idol of Ganesh, Mumbai, August 17,  2019
Devotees carry an idol of Ganesh, Mumbai, August 17, 2019(Bhushan Koyande/ HT PHOTO)
         

It’s that time of the year again. As August turns to September, the annual 10-day festival of Ganpati is about to begin. With the fading of the monsoon, the time of festivals begins again all over the country. Public spectacles of festivity will include music — both devotional and filmy — blaring on loudspeakers, in order to take on the impossible task of ensuring that the Gods will physically be able to hear them through the clouds. Entourages purporting to be religious will include groups of aggressive men, disrupting normal life on the roads. And such and other public outpourings of devotion and joy will ensure that traffic stalls, and the loud honking that ensues joins the chorus for the attention of the Almighty.

The public spectacle of Ganpati in Mumbai that will begin on September 2 was conceived as a resistance movement against the British, pioneered by Bal Gangadhar Tilak. Today, it is a massive enterprise, with huge pandals, large corporate sponsors, and those ubiquitous loudspeakers. The spectacle will repeat itself during Navaratri and Durga Puja, and North India has already seen the journey of hundreds of kanwarias, on foot and in various transport vehicles, travelling to fetch water from the Ganga. Such events are a great testament to the idea of public celebrations of a festival, to encourage even those who cannot afford to have elaborate festivities at home to take part in them. But it is time to step back and perhaps dial down a bit on the scale of such spectacles. Enough has been written on the need for environment-friendly idols and to reduce the use of firecrackers. Add to that the unrelenting noise of the loudspeakers and the traffic disruptions, and it no longer feels like a celebration.

It is time to consider the lives of those in emergency vehicles stuck in traffic, people who may be sensitive to noise, or even those whose work timings make it impossible to get some much-needed shut eye while the festival blares on outside. A public festival is a grand event, and can be a much-needed break from the mundane. But as responsible citizens, we must ensure that they stay within the bounds of respect for our fellow citizens. While there are rules to govern noise and air pollution, we know from experience that hardly, if ever, are these rules enforced or followed. Perhaps this year, we can all pledge to reduce the decibel levels and amount of public disturbance that our festivals cause.