Dr, Vijayshree Patil
Is Diwali 2020 cancelled?
Close your eyes and think of the first thing that comes to your mind when I say DIWALI?
Decorating the house with diyas, lanterns and the most colorful rangoli designs?
Fun filled family gatherings?
Extra competitive card game nights?
Lip smacking food - chaklis, ladoos, jalebis?
Getting dolled up from head to toe in new shimmery outfits?
Starry eyed hope for a new year?
And as for crackers – you name it, we got it, phooljhaddis, anars, chakris, laxmi bombs and rockets that light up the sky?
And *cough cough cough* and *hazy eyes*
Just another regular Diwali, right?
Well, if this is the essence of our favourite festival, then why is the government trying to take it away from us?
Turn on any news channel and you’ll see that a record number of states have banned crackers so far - Delhi NCR, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Rajasthan, Haryana, Odhisha, Sikkkim and Chadigarh.
Along with this, social gatherings are discouraged and parties are not allowed.
So what exactly is all this about?
Lets give this a think.
Traditionally Diwali was a festival of lights,
After destroying Ravan at an epic battle of good against evil, Lord Rama and Sita were welcomed back to Ayodhya with diyas at every doorstep leading the way.
A new world and a new year full of fresh dreams awaited.
The Harvest festival, full of abundance was a grand occasion celebrated by one and all.
Somewhere down the line, as with every festival, celebrations evolved as we evolved.
Phooljhaddis took the place of diyas, parties took the place of family poojas, and rockets lit up the sky.
But the environment and our health evolved during this time too.
Greta Thunberg wasn’t kidding when she said climate change has taken us by storm. Even in our own country we can witness that summer is hotter, winter is colder, floods everywhere and crops are failing.
A large number of factories paired with increasing traffic all over the country has put us at a high risk of air pollution.
Lately you may have come across reports of degradation of air quality to ‘hazardous’ or ‘very poor’ because of the smog.
Smog is nothing but smoke+fog carrying severe toxic gases including nitrous oxide, sulphur dioxide, carbon monoxide and worse. As a result of climate change and pollution put together - the winter winds get cooler over the country they loom in the upper part of the atmosphere. Pollution from increasing industries, traffic etc create hot toxic fumes that stay closer to the earth. Normally these would extend up to the higher atmosphere and escape without causing us much trouble. But as the years pass, this cool air is getting even cooler, not allowing the polluted hot smog to escape and as a result it stays close to our groundlevel until the sun comes out again the next day.
Diwali nights over the last decade have consistently shown the highest levels of smog because of the sheer number of firecrackers burst in a small span of time. You may have woken up in a haze the next morning, but be sure that’s not all the gulab jamun hangover. That right there is severe air quality loss.
So until the hopefully sunny next day comes, we often 'face' a hazy eye-burning, cough inducing grey smog that suffocates us not letting us breathe, irritating every part of our exposed skin.
And we are healthy young adults.
Now imagine the same to people suffering from medical conditions such as respiratory diseases.
More people suffer from medical conditions such as asthma, bronchitis and respiratory allergies today than ever before. This number only increases every year.
Cracker associated air pollution has been proven to worsen these conditions and cause acute respiratory attacks that require immediate hospitalization.
Along with this, in an unexpected turn of events, this is the year the world has also witnessed a covid pandemic, severely affecting millions of people the world over.
Drying out of our nose, eye and throat linings have been connected to a decrease in our bodys ability to fight infection, leaving older people even more susceptible to the effects of covid.
Even covid survivors are now proven to have residual damaged lung and heart conditions and are particularly susceptible to smog related medical conditions.
Trained doctors also find it difficult to distinguish between asthmatic bronchitis and covid and are likely to put a strain on the already over burdened healthcare system.
India is still the second largest country affected by Covid, and the stats are only getting worse.
Every festival has shown a spike in the covid rate so far. We can attribute this to public gatherings and laxity of safety measured, but we are now faced with larger accumulated concerns.
Even though most of us have resumed work with but a few extra precautions, this is one Ravan that is invisible. He hasn’t left us yet and isn’t planning to for a while. But through a conscious team effort and firm resolve, we CAN once again win the fight of good over evil.
Diwali is not going anywhere.
Our values and religion are not going anywhere.
Even our celebration is not going anywhere.
This is not a CANCELLATION, but an ALTERATION of Diwali 2020,
Lets choose options such as home zoom parties, diyas, green crackers, safe distancing, wearing shimmery masks to go with our shimmery clothing, and joy of giving but sanitizing our hands afterwords, over what we may have done so far. The rest is always still going to stay the same.
Just like with everything, it is only time for our celebration to evolve as we evolve.
For a greater good of our future generations, the environment and our health.
Team Safety Net wishes you a happy Diwali and a very very prosperous and healthy new year!
Stay healthy stay safe!
Dr Urjita Patil
The Safety Net