I was 10 years old when the boy I had a crush on told me that he would not be lighting firecrackers for Diwali because his mom had said that it ’causes harm to mother Nature’. He was 3 years older than me, but old enough to understand that Nature needs nurture. At the time, I was in awe of him – everything he said, everything he did was golden. So obviously, I didn’t light any firecrackers for Diwali that year or the 21 years that have followed.
The same year, I was blessed with the opportunity of participating in an exchange program between schools from all over the world aiming to spread awareness to children on Environmental Pollution. I visited a school in Pennsylvania, stayed with a host family for a month and had one of the most exciting experiences of my life. The exposure to multiple cultures, the knowledge I took home with me, the endearing friends I made, stayed with me throughout my growing years. It instilled in me a keen sense of civic responsibility, an awareness of our surroundings, the killing need to always find a dustbin to throw a piece of tissue or keep it in my bag till I can go home and trash it. Suddenly, I began loathing the typical Indian mindset of ‘anything goes’. Even today, it takes me all the will power I’ve got to not hit a person attempting to litter, jay walk, bend rules, or simply ‘cause harm to mother Nature‘.
Diwali, a celebration of victory over evil, right over wrong – the homecoming of a mythical hero, is celebrated with a great deal of pomp and gaiety in India, with delectable homemade delicacies and an insane amount of fireworks that make our skies toxic and my heart bleed. I know that it won’t be long before my toddler grows up and wants to watch a fireworks show or bring home some for lighting himself. This moral dilemma of whether I must allow him to experience a culture that is ages old or educate him on why we need to change the way we celebrate our festivals, is going to be a tough one. Should I give him a firecracker or a fresh set of values? Can I expect him to understand the magnanimity of the situation? Should I deny him the joy that we experienced as children, lighting firecrackers in our backyard? Can I give him a choice and hope that he will choose right over wrong?
Bringing up children is not the same as it used to be in older generations. It wasn’t simpler then, but it was definitely a world where society made some important choices for you and you accepted them to be the right ones. Today, I bear the consequences for my choices as a parent. I want my toddler to have a memorable, happy childhood celebrating festivals together as a family, coming together to share love, food and traditions. I don’t want him to miss out. But, I would like to make the keenest effort to educate him to be a good tiny human, a good tiny citizen, and a good tiny baby first. I would like to arm him with a value system that can help him make the right choices. To help him find contentment so he never has to yearn for it. To encourage his zest for doing what he loves with his whole heart, not necessarily doing what everyone does because they pretend to love it. I want him and children like him, to learn the joy of fulfilment that springs from within themselves.
As a parent, I know I will make some right and some wrong choices for my toddler, but I know for certain that we will both learn to be wonderful to ourselves and our surroundings as we go along. So, this Diwali I would like that we take a stand to better the world where our children will live and breathe, that we teach them to light their souls and not a cracker on fire. Just like MJ said ‘heal the world…make it a better place…for you and for me and the entire human race…’.
On that note, I hope you have had a smoke-free, safe Diwali. Until next time, stay calm and eat laddoos (yummy Indian sweets). XOXO
P.S: This post is being published a day early (I publish every 5 days) because as I type I can hear the resounding noise of fireworks all around me and can almost taste the bitter smokey air that I’m breathing. This is the time to speak to the world.