Ec(h)o-friendly Diwali- Part 4: Some scars that never fade
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Ec(h)o-friendly Diwali- Part 4: Some scars that never fade

Dark side of Diwali: If you or people around you are not careful, the festival of lights and sound can play havoc with your life. HT speaks to some people who paid a heavy price for the celebrations

punjab Updated: Oct 17, 2017 13:09 IST
Aneesha Bedi and Shailee Dogra
Aneesha Bedi and Shailee Dogra
Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
Ec(h)o-friendly Diwali,Diwali scars,festival of lights
For many, the festival of lights brings with it grave memories of loss or lifelong impairment, a stark reminder of how a celebration gone wrong can change a life forever. (HT Photo)

The mere mention of Diwali brings to mind crackers, sweets, celebrations, and smiles. But for many singed by mishaps big or small, it sends a shudder down the spine. For them, the festival of lights brings with it grave memories of loss or lifelong impairment, a stark reminder of how a celebration gone wrong can change a life forever.

Safety tips by the Fire and Security Association of India
  • In case of eye injury, splash tap water on your eyes for 5-10 minutes. Use medicines for the eyes only after consulting a doctor
  • In case of skin burn, run cold (but not ice-cold) water over the burnt area, or soak it in water. Do not apply paste, cream, ointment or oil on the burnt area
  • Asthma patients should wear a mask while bursting crackers or stay indoors

Here are a few cautionary tales.

Loss of vision and self-esteem

Daman Aulakh, a 61-year-old resident of Mullanpur, lost her right eye’s vision when a firecracker hit her. Wife of an army officer who was posted in Poonch on field duty, Aulakh was celebrating Diwali with her two children in Dalhousie when the mishap took place. Not a big fan of crackers even then, she had instructed the servant to burst the crackers in a way that her two children were protected. Little did she know, that the whistle-sound cracker would come for her eye.

With little medical facilities in the hill station, Aulakh was rushed to Amritsar the same night only to discover that she could no longer see from her right eye. Putting up a brave front in front of her children and parents, she never cried in front of them even though it meant yelling all by herself. Ever since, Diwali has never been the same for her. “I didn’t look directly into the mirror for two years, that’s the impact it had on me,” Aulakh told HT. It was her husband, Brigadier Navaljeet Singh Aulakh, who helped her regain her confidence inch by inch.

If you must burn crackers, keep these precautions in mind:
  • Always keep a distance from the fireworks when they are being lit up. Use long sticks to fire rockets or crackers·
  • Keep buckets of water handy. Keep a first-aid box ready with cotton, Dettol, anti-allergic tablets, Soframycin, band-aids, Paracetamol, et al
  • Be sensitive to the needs of senior citizens, people in mourning, people with disabilities, and animals in your area
  • Don’t burst crackers on roads or crowded areas. Don’t ignite fireworks in a container
  • Don’t leave your children alone while they are bursting crackers

For someone who was admired for her beauty, wearing goggles all the time wasn’t the most pleasant feeling until her husband took her to Philadelphia for a cosmetic surgery. “Not only that, I didn’t drive for five years after the incident…it leaves you in jitters,” she recalls.

Grateful that the infection hadn’t travelled to her other eye, gradually she learnt to rebuild her life, and began to step out more regularly. “Being an army officer’s wife, there were so many social gatherings that I had stopped going to till my friends and family came to my rescue and encouraged me to embrace my impairment, and just be natural,” she recounts.

It’s been many years now, but Aulakh hasn’t celebrated Diwali ever since. All that she does is light candles, nothing less, nothing more. Urging the government to ban crackers and stop the business of fireworks, she picks up the newspaper with a heavy heart a day after the festival every year. “I don’t want to ready any more stories of loss as only someone who has undergone it can feel for others,” she says.

SOS in Chandigarh: Keep the following phone numbers handy
  • Chief fire officer: 0172-5021423
  • Fire stations: 0172-2702333, 2703507 (Sector 17); 2747820 (Sector 11); 2690523 (Sector 38); 2648610 (Sector 32); 2734656 (Manimajra); 2642111 (Ram Darbar); and 0172-2655816 (Industrial Area-1)
  • GMSH, Sector 16: 102; 0172-2768201; GMCH-32: 0172-2601023/24; PGIMER advanced eye centre: 2755252; Emergency: 98140-14464; advanced trauma centre: 2755454

Scarred forever

A cracker that burst way back in 2003, changed the way Kirpal Singh, an inspector with Chandigarh police and his family, celebrate Diwali.

It was on the Diwali night in 2003 that his seven-year-old son Armaan injured his eyes when a cracker burst in his face. The family, which battled long and hard to help their child recover, has never been able to forget the incident. Armaan had lit up a cracker and when it did not go off, just like any curious child, he went again to re-ignite it. He was bending on it when it burst in his face. He sustained burns on the eyelids, eyelashes and the eyes resulting in serious damage to vital tissues of the eyes.

SOS in Mohali: Keep the following phone numbers handy
  • Fire emergency: 0172-2225902; civil hospital, Phase 6: 0172-2271295

Fourteen years on, Armaan is pursuing B Tech now and will turn 21 next month. Though the youngster has recovered, the scars of the accident remain, and the family no longer celebrates Diwali the way it did in the past.

“We have not purchased crackers ever since the accident. All we buy is a phuljhari, but the bombs are serious no, no,” shared Kirpal Singh. He adds, “Armaan too does not burst crackers.”

“Instead of wasting money on crackers, it’s better to spread smiles by sharing sweets with the poor or by helping them out,” says Inspector Kirpal.

Once burnt, forever shy

For the last 25 years, Narinder Singh, 40, of Sector 66, Mohali, has stopped bursting crackers. He was 15 when his hand got burnt during Diwali celebration way back in 1992.

“I had an anaar in my hand and was trying to ignite it when it burst in my hand. The skin came off my thumb and the hand was burnt badly,” recounts Narinder Singh, who now trades in plywood.

SOS in Panchkula: Keep the following phone numbers handy
  • Fire emergency: 0172-2560926, 101; general hospital: 108, 0172-2567228

He was rushed to hospital and administered first aid. Though the injury healed over time, Narinder Singh has never cared to touch a cracker again. “With time, the pain has gone, and the memories have become dim, but I still can’t bring myself to burst a cracker.”

A father of two, Narinder is also extra cautious when his children are playing with crackers. “Dhyan to rakhna padta hai na (you have to keep a watch). I make sure that I am around whenever they are bursting crackers. Their safety is my priority,” he adds. “Children have their own way of celebrating Diwali, and I cannot let one accident of my life ruin their memories of the festival of lights,” Narinder adds with a smile.

(With inputs from Arshdeep Arshi)

First Published: Oct 17, 2017 13:08 IST