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  • Raghav Sand

Diwali: Then and Now

The Festival of lights is being celebrated in a somewhat muted fashion this time around. It is arguably the single biggest festival in India and for people of Indian origin. A sense of excitement, newness and cleanliness are synonymous with Diwali. Whether it is home renovations or purchasing a home and kitchen appliance – the allocation of expenses is kept aside for this auspicious period. One can easily purchase the same thing before or after this festival, but the occasion makes it worth waiting for. Brands and sellers bring out special schemes during this period knowing well that people are in a buying state of mind. But there is more to the festival than buying or selling. Commerce is an integral part of our lives and essential for sustenance. One person’s expenditure is another person’s income, and a healthy economic activity is in everyone’s interest.

Indians are one of the most optimistic and hopeful people. On most instances, either vocally or mentally, they decide to do a certain activity during or prior to Diwali. This festival is some sort of an annual reset date in activity calendar. Pre-Diwali, during Diwali and post-Diwali are very common expressions in Indian households. Examples of some of the typical conversations are:

  1. Let us get new curtains before Diwali;

  2. We will get a new refrigerator and pressure cooker on Diwali;

  3. This can easily be done after Diwali; etc.

Range and Scale

The beauty of this festival is the simplicity with which it can be celebrated. The range can vary dramatically for different people, but the feeling of contentment is paramount. One may feel satisfied with whatever they can manage, and on the other hand someone may lament whatever was done or bought was not enough. All the lights one uses can dazzle everyone looking at a house, whereas at the same time a small earthen lamp can illuminate a place of worship in a simple abode. It is essential to look ahead and stay realistically optimistic.

Sharing is Joy

Sharing without a sense of pity and not making noise about the act of giving are the hallmark of a humble person. We all have lesser advantaged people around us and, without curtailing our own celebration, we should strive to be an enabler of their basic needs.

For a Change, Be the Change

People are getting aware about the ill effects of bursting crackers and the government and judiciary are playing a proactive role in imposing restrictions and spreading awareness. Bursting crackers has never been an integral part of celebrating Diwali, but it has been made to look as part of popular culture. Like many other things, people have been burning cash and polluting the environment as if it is an unwritten law or part of some sacred duty. Lack of common sense and disregard for the health of fellow citizens and the distress it causes to animals shows the insensitive and careless attitude of people.

The environmental effects of bursting crackers is well documented and if people who are aware about the facts do not act either voluntarily or adhere to government advisories, then how can we sensitize others. There is strong possibility of herd mentality coming into play if gradually people stop looking at Diwali as a festival of smoke and sound. Newsflash: There is nothing green about green crackers. All fireworks, green or otherwise, contain arsenic, carbon and sulphur.

Revenge Spending: A New Sensation

‘Revenge buying’ or rather ‘revenge spending’ is the overindulgence in retail therapy by consumers who have missed shopping at their favourite outlets due to the lockdown. Festivities and online sales have given people the perfect excuse to splurge after spending months inside home. Sunil Sethi, chairman, Fashion Design Council of India says, “If I think from the head and the heart, my heart says that there should be revenge buying in India and I know fashion world would welcome this move. But the head says that this will not be the case for India because we as Indians in times of crisis move away from what we would call wasteful expenditure.”

Hermes, a high fashion French brand, experienced the phenomenon of revenge shopping as it opened stores in China after lockdown ended. Indians and Chinese are not the same kind of people when it comes to splurging on luxury items. Noted fashion designer Ritu Kumar subscribes to a similar view and said, “The Chinese are very prone to luxury buying. And high luxury anyway is not guided by budget constraints. Indians, traditionally, prefer to save.”

Modify to Gratify

Practice and encourage social distancing and wearing mask during the festival period. Until a credible vaccine for Covid-19 is available, we cannot lower our guard. Avoid visiting the market repeatedly and try to make a list of things before heading out of your home. With the advent of winter and impairment of air quality, cough and cold have the potential to cause further strain on health and well-being. For all the joys of past and future, let Diwali in 2020 be remembered for unwavering human spirit and empathy.

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