How a pup, and the threat of shrinking spaces had a sound effect on these youth to celebrate Deepavali

A large number of youth are influencing an entire generation to rethink the celebration of Deepavali in a quieter, more mindful manner.

ByKV Navya

Published Nov 12, 2023 | 10:00 AMUpdatedNov 12, 2023 | 10:00 AM

The Supreme Court of India, on November 7, ordered a ban on firecrackers all across the country. (iStock)

In the heart of changing traditions and evolving mindsets, the echo of bursting crackers during Deepavali is fading into the past for a growing number of youth. Keerthana SP, Mohamed Abu Thahir, and Gopalan KR — three individuals from Chennai represent this new change in consciousness.

While the Supreme Court of India, on November 7, ordered a ban on firecrackers all across the country, ahead of Deepavali, a large number of youth like these three are influencing an entire generation to rethink the celebration of lights in a quieter, more mindful manner.

Also Read: Deepavali marundhu: A memoir of this magical mainstay in Tamil households

The transformative impact of a pup named Lucky

Keerthana SP’s journey towards abandoning the tradition of bursting crackers gained momentum when she was in grade 6. The constant dialogue about the importance of preserving the environment at her school left a lingering impression on her young mind.

However, it was in grade 7 when a pivotal moment solidified her commitment. Lucky, a furry companion, changed the way Deepavali was celebrated in their household.

Keerthana SP's pup changed her ways of celebrating Deepavali. (Supplied)

Keerthana SP’s pup changed her ways of celebrating Deepavali. (Supplied)

“Lucky used to get super scared, limp, and run inside, literally shivering at the sound of crackers. That image stuck with me. The excitement of bursting crackers seemed insignificant. My dad, on the other hand, took time to adapt to this change in tradition. Till I turned 16, he would buy crackers thinking I might want to burst them once the neighbors began. After four years, he finally gave up. Now, we celebrate Diwali differently, by watching a movie and sharing a hearty meal,” shares the 23-year-old software engineer from Medavakkam.

Keerthana’s father, a representative of the older generation accustomed to the joyous chaos of Diwali fireworks, initially struggled to reconcile with the shift in festivities. For years, he clung to the familiar ritual, perhaps driven by the nostalgia of bygone celebrations.

It was a gradual process for him to understand and embrace the new way of celebrating the festival of lights.

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A personal commitment to environmental responsibility

Mohamed Abu Thahir’s journey toward a cracker-free Diwali began at the age of 14 when exposure to environmental news left him disheartened.

He recognised his inability to change certain aspects of his lifestyle, such as using air conditioners and owning a private vehicle. This is when he redirected his focus to areas where he could make a difference — starting with abstaining from crackers.

Mohamed Thahir was impacted by the life of Sivakasi firecracker makers. (Supplied)

Mohamed Thahir was impacted by the life of Sivakasi firecracker makers. (Supplied)

“Having celebrated Deepavali in both Tirunelveli and Chennai, the stark difference in pollution levels was evident. But it wasn’t just about personal health; it was about the environmental toll of cracker production,” shares the 24-year-old network engineer.

Having grown up in Tirunelveli, not too far from Sivakasi, the hub of crackers, the Velachery resident witnessed the impact of the workers at firecracker-making units.

“It was an intersection between celebration and consequence. The industry not only poses a threat to the environment but also exacts a toll on the well-being of those involved. This compelled me to advocate for change. Choosing an alternate livelihood is essential for them, though it’s a gradual process,” he emphasises. Thahir now prefers spending the day with his friends.

Also Read: Doctors share how to celebrate a safe Deepavali

Shrinking spaces and changing landscapes

For Gopalan, a resident of Ambattur, the decision to forego bursting crackers is rooted in the evolving urban landscape of Chennai. Growing up in a city where buildings sprout incessantly, the once spacious areas around homes have vanished.

The fear of shrinking spaces changed the way Gopalan perceived Deepavali celebration. (Supplied)

The fear of shrinking spaces changed the way Gopalan perceived Deepavali celebration. (Supplied)

Walking on the streets during Deepavali now involves navigating through bustling roads that are lined with fireworks, raising safety concerns.

“I have absolutely no space. In my childhood, there was ample space outside every house for Diwali celebrations. Now, with buildings encroaching every corner, we have to walk to the main road where high-speed vehicles pose risks. This has in a way compelled us to stop bursting crackers,” shares the 26-year-old, who is currently pursuing his PhD. He meets his family and relatives in Chennai, and enjoys watching a movie on the day of Deepavali.

These voices mark a shift in the perception and practice that extends beyond the boundaries of personal celebrations. It is a commitment to a festivity that leaves no trace but memories of warmth and togetherness.

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