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Festivals in India – Can’t we have them free of pollution?


Let me admit, I am no saint. It is not that I don’t believe in God but I just don’t agree with this idea of blind faith, idol worship etc. Fine these are my thoughts so people who don’t like this concept please leave this post now.

My pet peeve has always been the noise we equate with festivities. Every time we have some celebration, we must have noise and by noise I mean LOUD noise which increases exponentially very year not to mention the raunchy film songs that blare away. Having lived bang opposite not 1 but 3 marriage halls since birth, I am always complaining about the noise levels. Added to that festivals such as Ganesh Chaturthi going on these days, only add to the noise pollution levels.

Air pollution – Crackers – the bane of it all. I have convinced Kavya not to burst crackers and she hasn’t done that in the past 5 or 6 years or more. Proud of that Kavya. But then why do we have to make such an ostentatious show of wealth by bursting crackers? The noise is deafening and worse the smoke causes so many problems. As I write it is the last day of the Ganesh festival and today is the immersion day when the idols are taken to the sea for immersion. The smoke emanating from the crackers bursting has already caused a problem with my nose and I have been sneezing endlessly with a running nose and watering eyes. Mind it, I haven’t stepped out of the house since 2 pm. Wonder what pain it is causing to senior citizens and the ailing patients. Not everyone has the luxury of an air-conditioned room which in any case doesn’t warrant immunity from all the effects.

Water pollution – This probably is a killer during these days of Ganesh Chaturthi. Idols made of Plaster of Paris are immersed in the waters. These idols are painted of course so don’t know what harmful metals / chemicals are being passed on into the sea. Dumping of flowers, coconuts etc. into the sea along with threads / wires / other pieces of decoration. What terrible effects on the marine eco system! Unimaginable. The same lord who for the past 10 days is worshipped (or whatever you can call the all of the above) is then washed ashore and picked up and dumped. Last year I did venture to Shivaji Park with my camera but was surprised to see it cleaned up already and besides large signs mentioning no photography! So in the guise of festivities what are we doing? Running away from harsh realities?

Coming to my own home – I put my foot down some 10 or 15 years ago and said no more idol to be brought home. For a year we did not get the idol home but then as expected both my Mother and wifey ganged up against me (or should I use the word emotionally blackmail me) and next year it was back to usual. Just that now they say that they are getting “eco-friendly” idols. I honestly don’t trust the shop keepers who sell these so called “eco-friendly” idols. Who knows what goes inside? Maybe next year is time again for me to orchestrate some kind of a protest at home to stop this blind idol worship. I would rather have the amounts spent in feeding someone needy. And talking of feeding people, next to our Mahim office, yesterday evening I saw that they were feeding the needy. Very nice of them no doubt but what were they using? Stryofoam plates which is carcinogenic and would never degenerate for years to come. So what are the good Samaritans i.e. the organisers thinking? Leaves many questions unanswered.

Best is for me to stop this “eco-friendly” idol worship at home and do my bit for the environment. As it is bursting crackers is out for Kavya so she is already doing her bit for the environment.

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Ganesh Visarjan – The after effects

Saturday, September 29, 2012 was the day of Ganesh Visarjan. This is the last day of Ganeshotsav when the Ganesh idols are immersed into the sea. This is accompanied by lots of people dancing on the streets, blaring music, lights etc.

For the past few years I had been hearing about the harmful effects the rituals had on the water. Idols are made from plaster of Paris which is non bio degradable. I wanted to go to the beach and take some pictures for the past few years but finally decided to take the plunge yesterday. Went to Shivaji Park around noon.

It was high tide and so could not see any idols or parts thereof washed ashore but what I saw shocked me. There was so much of stuff floating in the water. We tend to use thermocol (Polystyrene) for decoration and that too is sent into the water with the idol. Thermocol does not bio-degrade for hundreds of years and is resistant to photolysis, It simply lies there and floats on the surface. Saw so many flowers floating. Flowers thankfully are degradable  But when we attach flowers to anything that is made of plastic or such, the plastic etc. simply sits in the water without getting affected. Imagine the floating non degrading junk! This junk would form a layer of muck on the surface blocking sun light so vital for growing of plants in the water as also for the animals in the sea.

The Municipal Corporation had put up posters on the Shivaji Park beach that photography was prohibited. What I saw was these back hoes or whatever they are scooping the litter and dumping it onto a dumper. They were meticulous as a lot of much was cleared and no sign of any broken idols or such probably just to avoid rubbing any religious sentiments on the wrong side.

This year there has been a lot of talk about eco-friendly idols but like I was arguing at home, there is no means of ensuring if the idols were truly eco-friendly or just another marketing gimmick.

Stunned as I was at the sea being filled with man made muck, I was left wondering if Lord Ganesha would ever have approved of our handling of the water in name of The Lord.

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In the name of religion, life has no value…..

Friday was Janmashtami, the birthday of Lord Krishna. So far so good. But year on year why this ritual of dahi handi? For those who do not know, dahi handi consists of the handi, a clay pot filled with buttermilk that is positioned at a convenient height prior to the event. People form a human pyramid and the topmost person on the human pyramid tries to break the handi by hitting it with a blunt object. Mostly nariyal (coconut) is preferred being a sign of purity, truth etc. in Hinduism. When that happens the buttermilk is spilled over the entire group, symbolizing their achievement through unity. Handis are set up around the city, and groups of youngsters, called Govindas, travel around in trucks trying to break as many handis as possible during the day. No points for guessing that cash prizes are doled out and with every passing year the handis go higher and the cash amount goes up too. Every year, there are accidents as the human pyramid collapses and some people are maimed for life or paralysed or such. Despite this the handis have political patronage. Isn’t it a bit too much? And I fail to understand how these people (who I am told are sozzled) just don’t want to exercise restraint? Lord Krishna as a child would mischievously steal butter and curd from the neighbours’ houses. These pots of curd and butter were hung high up in the kitchen. But what has that got to do with this? I mean his birthday yes but surely he did not wish to see a few paralysed for life or dead?

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India – A land of many cultures and festivals too!

Strange a title you would wonder but this is what I am beginning to realise yet again. I am an Indian at heart and an Indian by birth but my knowledge on festivals would be restricted to generally the ones we celebrate in western India. Today a colleague from our Bangalore office applied for leave for tomorrow on account of Varamahalakshmi. Now this is one festival I would not know of even in my wildest dreams. So as is the case with the present day generation / times, Google comes to my rescue. I found this link which explained the ritual. Speaks volumes of how much we know about our own culture honestly. We need to know more about our own country than the world around us.

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Ganesh Chaturthi 2011

It is that time of the year when the elephant God, Lord Ganesh visits us for Ganesh Chaturthi and as usual I have my pet peeves which has nothing against the Lord but against the celebrations by us, lesser mortals.

Firstly day 1 is a mad house with the traffic going bonkers and then the deafening noise. Every nook and corner has a pandal. What a colossal waste of resources, money, electricity and as the days progress, the environmental damage!!

What was started by Lokmanya Tilak as a means of gathering people against the British regime using natural clay (and hence bio degradable) idols has now become a plaster of paris and chemical paint zoo unfortunately. There is so much noise with the blaring music. Give me a break. Playing aartis loudly is surely not my idea of devotion. On the last day Mumbai practically shuts off as they take the idols for immersion into the sea. The cacophony is killing and there is sea of people heading towards the sea.

And then there are certain famous pandals like Lalbaug Cha Raja This morning I read behind a BEST bus a warning that they expect a very long queue and the estimated waiting period is 25 to 30 hours!!!! Gimme a break!! The Gods must be crazy – it sure applies here and ditto for the devotees.

How I wish people would restrain themselves. It is not necessary to have so many pandals. Save the environment please and save the noise pollution too.

And yes I must add here that I am scheduled to fly out on the last day to Bangalore and so am mortally scared of how I am going to make it to the airport. Local train will surely save the day for me.


Dassera 2009

Tomorrow (September 26, 2009) we will all be in traditional outfits at the office to celebrate Dassera which is on Monday and is a holiday. Now who is donning what is the question. We did that last year too and had snacks in the evening. This year the tradition continues:-)

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Noise levels and Indian festivities

We Indians seem to associate loud songs and music with festivals. Today is Janmashtami and the office would ideally have been quiet but someone outside is playing the worst of the worst songs ooops bhajans …. Even God I am sure would have punctured his ear drums today what with such lousy music blaring and the nasal twangs which would put Himesh Reshamiya to shame!!! I am so fed up with this kind of music.