India celebrates countless festivals that endorse the community's sense of a collective. Festivals are in that sense inclusive and generate a shared space. This is true of Holi, Ganesh Chaturthi, Dusshehra, Durga Puja, the collective mass at both Eid and Christmas. Most festivals are followed by community feasting in large numbers. This is a fun filled space, with the bustle of people, the rustle of special or new clothes, the excitement of doing something different from the everyday and the delight of eating wonderful food with friends, acquaintances and families. Spectacle centred festivals such as the staged Ramleela, the bringing down of the putlas of Kumbhakaran, Meghdhoot and Ravan during Dushshehra, the display of stunning Durga idols or the humungous Christmas trees that dress up for Christmas, each of these occasions would be unimagineable without the collective participation that is so evident. In fact, this holds true even for low key festivals such as Teej, janmashtami and Onam.
I wonder year after year why Diwali has always been an exception to this rule. Yes, people do meet and exchange gifts and sweets and this is bumper season for corporate gifting, but celebrations remain largely personalised and exclusive. Card parties are played in closed circles. Everybody decorates their homes with all manner of electric lights, flowers , rangolis and candles .Each household has its own exclusive Lakshmi puja and a private diwali dinner, which is punctuated with extravagant firecracker displays. In households recently acquired through the grace of competent builders, the first Diwali in the house is celebrated as if firecrackers would be shortly going out of fashion. Never mind if the lights and air and excitement is snuffed out for all the neighbourhood plants, trees , animals and people.
Since many laws have been implemented to encourage civic-mindedness in the Delhi citizen, why dont we add a law mandating collective firework display only in public maidans? It could be organised in a manner similar to other community festivals. This would not only bring back the spirit of collective participation, but will leave our eardrums and those of our children intact, our lungs more capable, our hearts less subject to palpitations, our pets more calm, our vehicles more safe, diminish threats to life and property that unsupervised playing with fire causes, rekindle solicitude for the old and the infirm and those who seek quiet as well as happier MCD karamcharis the morning after! Thus we could achieve that perfect state of collective beatitude that all religions purport to create लोकाः समस्ताः सुखिनो भवंतु ll which translates as the future possibility of happiness for every living being in the world