Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The Choice to Celebrate

It is Diwali. I woke up at 7.30 AM today. I woke up not because of my endeavour to see the break of dawn on an auspicious day (anyways, that happens way to early for me). I woke up because of the noise of firecrackers and the blaring sound of my neighbour's speakers. Today, like many other festive days in the past, it was just a question of my sleep, which was far more disturbed anyways due to the allergic sneezing from the smoke of the fireworks. I can live with that as I have in the past. The photography keeps me going, but unfortunately there is far less light and far more noise during Diwali these days. That is my personal regret and not the objective of this post.

However,  there could be an old lady suffering from asthma who had an attack that ruined her Diwali. There could be a mother trying to put her baby to sleep, only to find it has woken up yet again to the sound of a chain bomb. All her festive preparations could still be pending. There could be a person down with dengue, whose head is exploding because of the fever and headache, to who every single sound of a cracker is like a hammer smashing at the walls of his skull. He would probably want to rest and not want to celebrate at all. On another day, there could be a man, who has had a heart attack, being rushed to the hospital only to  be caught in traffic caused by Ganesh visarjan celebrations. The point is that some person, somewhere is being discomforted with the celebrations of the larger group. Forget humans, even animals are not spared by children who tie crackers to their tails "just for fun" during Diwali or make them targets for their water balloons/cannons loaded with strong permanent colours  during Holi. I have made it amply  clear to those children that such behaviour is cruel and bordering inhumane (regardless of whether I know them) to the extent of threatening to report them to the police or animal right groups.

Celebrations are a reflection of the passion of our people. They are a great way of bringing the community feeling in otherwise isolated lives and must be encouraged. I personally take great pride in telling my friends who are foreigners about the uniqueness of our culture and its celebrations. I think India won't be the same without them.

However, in a democracy, the power to exercise the choice of not participating in a celebration or a part of one must be given to every individual. People must be sensitive that the individual may opt out of the celebration  not because they oppose it but because they are discomforted by it.

It is as much their festival as our own and they have as much a right to celebrate it their preferred way. By being responsible and sensitive, we can help them make their own choice. That is how every single one of us can have a joyous festival. That is how we become a democracy in the truest sense.