For 10 years now, residents of Rajajinagar I Block have had a friendly face visiting them every Deepavali morning, imploring them to not burst crackers.
What began as a small door-to-door campaign in 2001 slowly graduated to a cracker waste collection drive and then the annual symbolic burning of the “narakasura” effigy — made of paper pulp from cracker waste collected off roads. These have now become part of Deepavali traditions in this area.
This year, Shivakumar Hosamani, and his non-governmental organisation, Samarpana, are visiting at least 5,000 homes in and around the locality and gifting people diyas (lamps made of clay). This gesture is symbolic for it serves to remind people that this festival is about “hope and light”, and not “sound or smoke”, Mr. Hosamani explains. “Our message is well-received. Many people instantly reciprocate and tell us that they will surely refrain from bursting crackers,” he says.
Over the years, Mr. Hosamani claims that he has seen attitudes change. “Today, people are beginning to understand that crackers not only pollute but also cause inconvenience to others living in the locality, particularly those who are sick or the aged,” he says. He hopes that perhaps in less than a decade, Deepavali will return to being a festival of lights, rather than pollution.
Like every year, this year too volunteers from Samarpana collected waste off the roads — some residents store it in gunny bags to make it easy for them — and converted it to paper pulp to create the effigy that will be burnt on Monday.
“The burning of the effigy too is symbolic. Besides getting rid of cracker waste, and reducing the burden on the corporation workers, it also grabs the attention of people who will realise that a few minutes of enjoyment has such a large, giant-size consequence, embodied in the effigy of an asura,” Mr. Hosamani explains.