For a lot of us the festival of Diwali brings with itself that spark of joy and zest to celebrate that has been missing from our lives these past several months. Yes, the threat of a deadly pandemic still looms large over our head. Unlike previous years, we cannot shop at our local markets till our feet give up, or invite people over at our homes to mark the festivities, but there is so much we can do. We can go through our cupboards, and find our favorite ethnic wear and dress up in our fineries. Decorate our house with rangoli light diyas and share some joy, sweets, laughter and festive traditions with our loved ones.
One thing that we don’t need to enjoy Diwali is fire crackers. With the recent ban on burning firecrackers in Delhi NCR, a lot of people complain that Diwali is just one day in a year. Why should the Govt. take away people’s enjoyment of burning crackers when air pollution has so many other sources through the year.
Unfortunately Diwali falls at a time, when the air is already loaded with air pollution from crop burning and with winter approaching the pollutants are sticking closer to the ground. A huge spike on that one day can gravely affect people, especially those with respiratory issues leading to asthma attacks and even death and without proper winds these can stay suspended in air for days. This year with COVID-19 the situation is much worse and can disproportionately affect people suffering from COVID and respiratory issues.
Each year we see a huge spike of particulate matter on Diwali night in Delhi NCR with PM2.5 numbers reaching 23x the permissible value of 30ug/m3 and PM10 reaching 20x the permissible value of 50ug/m3.
The pollutants often stay suspended in air for days leading to a gas chamber for many days post Diwali. Even last year we saw air quality continue to deteriorate post Diwali with a combination of suspended pollutants from fire crackers and crop burning.
This year air quality in Delhi NCR has already been in the Severe zone for days and additional pollutants from fire crackers will make the air even more toxic and harmful for citizen health.
According to an article published by Medicover Hospitals, air pollution created from fire crackers is much more toxic than air pollution from most other sources as they contain metals like lead, magnesium, zinc, copper etc. which are extremely harmful and lead to much more severe affect to your brain, liver, kidney, heart and just about every organ in your body in addition to your respiratory tract.
The loud noise from firecrackers is traumatic for pets, small children and elderly. A large number of under age children are employed in the firecracker industry and without proper protective gear many die due to accidents working in unsafe conditions and have lifelong illnesses from breathing the toxic materials that go into its making.
Besides, Diwali was never about bursting deafening crackers or putting up a spectacle of lights whose joy only lasts a few seconds. Diwali means celebrating family, faith, lights and colours, and everyone’s well-being. It means bringing light into your life, whose glow you could carry with you long after the festival is over.
Here’s how we are celebrating a cracker-free Diwali this year, so that we can fill our lungs with fresh clean air the next morning. And yet we are sure that is going to be a blast:
- Going back to traditional Diwali snacks
Because of COVID-19 pandemic, buying sweets from shops may not be your preferred option. Which also means no boxes full of chocolates or packed goodies. Everything is being made at home and we have rediscovered our love for the deep-fried goodness of mathri, chakli, shakkarparre, and churme ke laddoo. Asking children to help out in making these snacks is also a good way to introduce them to these traditional goodies, whose charm we do not appreciate when compared to store bought kaju katli, motichoor laddoo or gourmet chocolates.
- Recycling the old, instead of buying new
Since we cannot go to the market to buy new candles or diyas, we have fished out our lot from last year from the attic, washed them and what do you know, our old mitti ke diye are as good as new! If you want to make your old diyas sparkle and shine further, why not hand paint them? It could be a fun way to pass time if you have young kids running high on sugar and with little to do during Diwali vacation.
- Something borrowed, something new
Still waiting for that online delivery of your new lehenga? What if it doesn’t arrive on time? Did you forget to order a matching pair of earrings like I did? With shopping spree a bit difficult, most of us have resorted to online shopping to buy ourselves new clothes on Diwali. Why not borrow your sister’s earrings to go with your dress, instead of ordering new ones though? Why not pair an old dupatta with your new salwar suit? The pleasure that you get from sneaking off your mother’s bangles or sisters jhumkas during peak festivities is unparalleled, isn’t it?
- Hands-on redecoration
A lot of homes get a fresh coat of paint around Diwali which marks the culmination of the traditional Diwali ki safai. But most of us are avoiding this due to COVID-19 this year, which means this is a perfect opportunity for you to test your limits as a “home decorator” with limited means and budget. Make a rangoli on the porch everyday. Use flowers, diyas and electric series in various permutations and combinations to make your home look festive. Last year I got my then five-year-old to make an akash kandil at home that we hung on our porch. We plan to make one this year as well, and my daughter seems to take this new tradition very seriously.
- Lights, music, fun
While we cannot stay outdoors for long, and should refrain from bursting crackers, this doesn’t mean that Diwali evening ought to be dull and boring. Light those earthen lamps and fragrant candles that you have been saving all year long. Play some festive music and bring out the snacks. Fill the air with laughter instead of noise from pathakas. Your eyes may tear up; but it won’t be because of the toxic fumes from firecrackers though.
We hope that in spite of the pandemic and the air pollution you and your family enjoy the festivities to the fullest. From all of us at the Airveda family, we wish you and your loved ones a very happy and healthy Diwali.