Epiphoney | Columns

Skip these ‘bombs’

Festivals in India have managed to stay rooted in the past and yet get a tech upgrade. It is the worst combination ever, one that replaces all the right feelings with robotic precision. We stick on to inexplicable rituals that are performed with much fervour, like invoking a sky-full of deities right into our shanty little 2BHK (with terrace and servant’s room), but we don’t make any space for empathising with others who are in our physical proximity and could really use a hug. Then, technology steps in to really hold up a mirror to our hollowed out existence — playing prayers on Spotify because no one remembers the words or, worse still, their significance, looking up the right way to put a vermilion teeka, or with which hand to do the aarati (was it anti-clockwise)?

Festivals are a farcical parody of what they were originally intended for. They rob days like Diwali of all their joyous mirth. At the risk of sounding like a party pooper, here are four things I could do without this year, but also the next, and the next...

Greetings: It surprises me how people mix sincere emotions with obligations. Sending cheesy, generic, forwarded wishes along the lines of, “May this Diwali/New Year bring you/your loved ones health/wealth/joy and may God/Almighty/Guruji shower you with his/their blessings” convey nothing at all. Stop. You really want to make my Diwali brighter, call me, or better yet, send me a gift, the kind that I can feel solid between my hands and not one that, as per the adage, “only counts in thoughts”.

Gifts: While on gifts, let’s get this clarified too. Every year India plays the great game of pass-the-parcel where gifts are received and forwarded. Much like Newton’s Law, no new gifts have been made or used in the last five decades, they simply exchange hands and get passed around endlessly. I bet if we actually opened one we won’t find anything useful but it will certainly have great museum value, and a blemish of a carbon footprint. So if you want to send me something, work on trying to, and make it meaningful and relatable.

Firecrackers: Honestly, I have difficulty recreating the scene where the revered Lord Rama returns with his devoted family to his heavenly kingdom amidst sounds of “Seeti rockets” and “Lakshmi/Gola bombs”. Was He returning to Operation Desert Storm? Would He not have just turned around and promptly gone back to the forest where the air was cleaner and the environs, silent and peaceful? Please remember that henceforth. Firecrackers are a ridiculous waste of resources and harm too many elements. You really want a spectacular display, feed a few hundred and hear them thank you. But if philanthropy is lost on you, then simply burn a few wads of ₹2,000 notes and in that silence you will hear the sound of your incurable stupidity shouting out loud!

Card games: Honestly, a good ol’ taash party is the most binding ritual of Diwali that exists nowadays. And it is not going away because not even a deadly virus has abated people’s interest in gambling their savings away. But at least it is an honest love for something that everyone understands and believes in. It is that one moment of sincerity that people allow themselves: the hope, the anxiety, the rush, the joy and the fall are all real. I wish the prayer ceremonies were half as connecting or meaningful. Not that I care for either. My only gripe is this: please serve the bloody dinner at an earthly hour. As someone who has a gag reflex to throwing his money away on pure chance, I am (and often in Delhi, Katy Perry) courteous enough to attend your ridiculous parties, so please be civil and feed me at an appropriate time. I couldn’t care less for who got a trail and which variation is being played next (or maybe I could care lesser); I am merely here for your top-shelf booze, the fancy catering, and to watch some fledgling Bollywood starlet belittle themselves with your overtly enthusiastic family.

This column is for anyone who gives an existential toss.

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Printable version | Jan 19, 2021 9:50:56 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/columns/skip-these-bombs/article33092232.ece

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