Festivals add spice to our life. But to think it through, festivals are a set of practices and its only fair if the practices evolve with time. The practices have to appertain to the era and if the era demands some sort of change for the betterment of the people and the environment, then they should be amended. In the era when the natural resources are depleting, its only fair that we design the celebration of the festivals to help the environment and not ruin it. This was the thought process that had been going in my mind when the festival season began.
‘I have made up my mind. This is what is the need of the hour and i am going to try my best to achieve it’, I told myself. I took the phone and called my gang of ladies of the complex and invited them over to tea. I told them to bring their children along because they are the ones who have to be given these ideas.
Around 4 pm, the corridors started to buzz with activity and I could hear the lifts going up and down. I left the entrance door open so that the ladies can let themselves in. ‘Hello Aunty Rao’ !!! came Dipti, followed shortly by Bela, Smriti, Manisha, Neha, Anu, Nandini, Naina, Mrs. Khanna and Jaya with their kids. My abode was full of laughs, noise and colour and I simply loved it.
“So what’s the occasion Aunty?” asked Anu.
“Lets first have something to eat and sip and let the kids have some sugar in their system so that their spirits are high!’ I told everyone and started to lay down the table for the gang. I was trying to go the ‘stomach way’ to their minds and hearts. I had baked an orange and almond cake and fried some ‘methi mathis’ since these were two things with which I never went wrong.
As everyone sat armed with their beverages and snacks, I made the proposition. “I want to propose that we must do something different this diwali”!!!! I revealed to everyone what this meeting is about. The mention of Diwali brought a pleasant uproar in the room and everyone seemed
Now was the tricky part. Diwali is about firecrackers, lights, noise, and exchange of gifts and this is exactly what I wanted to change. Seed is what becomes tree and that is all I wanted, to plant the seed in the young minds. How long will this idea take to become an ideology is not my concern, I shall do what is in my hand.
Addressing all of them, I asked “ Tell me one by one, what do you associate diwali with?”
Dipti said, “Firecrackers!” Naina said, “Gifts!” Manisha (the cleanliness freak) said, “Cleaning of household”! Neha said “ sweetmeats!”
“Well said, girls!” I was glad to hit the nail on the head. So I began with what I had in mind. “ All these things that we associate with diwali are beautiful things that made our lives a bit more livelier and colourful during the festive season. But why should we restrict to only these things. Lets try something new this time. These all are practices which aim to give happiness to everyone around us. So lets focus on the aim and design the action, a little different to the usual one, which will achieve that aim. What say you girls?”
“What exactly do you have in mind, Aunty Rao?” asked one of them.
“Well, to start with, lets beautify! Not only our houses but also our surroundings. Lets make a plan to clean and beautify our building. Every one of us takes up a responsibility to clean one portion of the building. We have four floors with 4 houses each. Lets divide the duties and clean the stairs and the corridors. We decide on a colour scheme and use it to decorate the whole building. This will make this building appear as one home.” I said. “Lets try and use as much natural things like wood, clay, cane to decorate rather than plastic and paper to do this job.” I suggested.
“Wow! this sounds fun” said Nandini and the crowd too seemed to agree with that. And I knew that most of these young minds had a good aesthetic sense and that is what I wanted to tap into. “Nandini can become the coordinator for the decoration and Manisha can become the coordinator for the cleanliness”, suggested Mrs. Khanna. This suggestion was approved by all with a giggle considering that both of them were so appropriate for their respective jobs.
I continued, “ As Naina said, diwali is also about exchange of gifts. We all love gifts but honestly, do we really use all the gifts that we receive. Most of the time we use them for re-gifting. Isnt it?” Most of them remained quite and had a guilty grin on their faces.
“So I have a suggestion”, I said, “lets gift each other a plant! Plants are best things to be used as gifts. No other gift grows like a plant and nursing a gifted plant is the best way of appreciating that gift.” I seemed to have struck some chord here as they all listened in silence and had thoughtful countenances.
I faced the little ones and addressed them, “ Do you know why we celebrate diwali?” “ Lord Rama returned home after a long walk in the woods, that is why”! shouted Ria and we all were in splits. “Absolutely right Ria, and when he returned all the people in his kingdom decorated their homes by lighting ʻdiyas’, they never had electric lights back then but their homes looked very pretty with diyas. So should we also use lots of diyas and not electric lights on diwali?” “Okay aunty” said all of them in chorus. I knew they were too young to know what the real point of it all was, but these are the minds who need to know about conservation from now.
“I also have a suggestion, Mrs Rao” said Mrs Khanna. “Why dont we all get together in the park on diwali night for collective fireworks so that everyone can enjoy the spectacle withouting overdoing the noise and air pollution.”
“And… and…, why dont we all have a potluck diwali dinner in the community room downstairs so that we all eat together like a big family and have an antakshari or kiddies dance performances” blurted out Smriti.
“That is a brilliant idea, lets make diwali more than firecrackers. Lets make it a night of DANCE, MUSIC and FOOD and GAMES and MERRIMENT!” said Anu brimming with enthusiasm and joy. Everyone now had something or the other to contribute to the upcoming event. It was a beautiful sight to see everyone involved and excited.
The atmosphere was becoming festive already and I was extremely happy that I had managed to achieve what I wanted to. Life is so much fun when minds are open, hearts are big and bodies are full of enthusiasm. The celebration and conservation can go hand in hand, I was looking forward to see it happen…