A couple of years ago, Virat Kohli and his dog Bruno implored people to have a noiseless Diwali. Thank you, young man, I said then. This time, it’s thank you, Yuvraj Singh.
Kohli had a specific agenda: Keep things quiet, you are messing with the dogs out there. Yuvraj made a broader point – think of the pollution, air and noise; if you light crackers, “is se hamara dil jalega”, he said.
Between Kohli’s message and Yuvraj’s, we had Diwali 2016. On that day – although festivities do start a day or three prior and continue till well after – reports said that New Delhi’s pollution levels hit ‘dangerous’ territory. In some areas, the levels of PM2.5, particles suspended in the air that can lodge in your lungs and cause diseases, increased to 1238 on the Sunday that was Diwali. The year before, it was 435. The World Health Organisation says PM2.5 levels should be kept below 10 as an annual average; 35 or above is associated with a 15% higher long-term mortality risk.
You didn’t need reports. Anyone who was in Delhi could see it, feel it, smell it and perhaps even taste the PM2.5-induced haze. Partly caused, other reports said, by the annual crop-burning carried out in various parts of north India. But no one denied that crackers had a big role to play.
Then there is also the noise pollution, which has always been traumatic for our family of two humans and a canine. Dogs have much, much stronger hearing abilities than people, and they suffer exponentially more every time there’s an explosion. It will be lesser in the NCR this year because of the Supreme Court order banning the sale of firecrackers around Diwali. Fingers crossed – even if Virender Sehwag doesn’t fancy a quiet celebration.
Yuvraj’s video and Sehwag’s message raised a social-media storm in a tweetcup. Sehwag’s tweet – sent out on October 9 and still pinned on his page – says, “RT if this year you will celebrate Diwali extra dhoom dhaam se.” Those who agreed with him – opinion-wise – spewed vitriol on Yuvraj. (Really, people, that’s how you speak to a cancer survivor who speaks up for health? – the wife asked, livid.)
Speaking only for myself, a 365-day around-the-country clampdown on crackers is just fine. But the silence doesn’t work for a vast majority of people in certain parts of the country who look forward to the noise and lights on the day because ‘It’s always been like this’. It’s tough to argue with that.
Because, really, it has been like this for the longest time.
All this talk of cricketers and noise took me back to the pre-environment and health consciousness years when noise was an integral part of celebrations, and indeed life, in India. And certainly when it came to cricket.
Did you not save a ‘bomb’ or five every Diwali (Kalipujo for us growing up in Kolkata) for the next big India v Pakistan game? Only the one-dayers, of course. Test matches got big crowds in at Eden Gardens all right, but not always did the games end in a win or loss. And while Test matches make for great emotional rollercoasters, they didn’t provide, let’s say, explosive cricket.
Back in the day, when the Garden of Eden used to be packed to the rafters and there was not even room to dance in the aisles, it was certainly doggie hell. The lower tiers were as dungeon-like as stands at a cricket stadium could get. The general buzz used to be close to deafening, and when the Indians did something good – the Hero Cup semifinal and final come to mind straightaway – the noise would make the concrete shake. I swear! It’s a wonder it didn’t all come crashing down. The noise, the noise, the noise … I can still hear it, two and a half decades on. And it didn’t stop at the shouting.
In those pre-paranoia days, when you could still carry bottles of water to the ground, you could also carry crackers. I don’t now remember if you could just walk in with them or you had to smuggle them in somehow. Every opposition wicket meant quite a few of them going off, and every big hit – more fours than sixes then – was similarly noted.
And when India won a big one-dayer elsewhere in the country, or world, we congregated on the roads outside our homes, little packets of crackers in hand, and celebrated.
No one minded. Pre-paranoia. And pre-pollution overdrive.
It was much the same elsewhere in India. Is it still like that? Or is there too much cricket, does India win too often, for it to matter as much?
Now, how did this blog about noise metamorphose into nostalgia? There’s something wrong about that!
Anyhow, Jiminy Cricket hurrahs every time a cricketer speaks up for a greater common good, so here’s two thumbs up for Yuvraj.
While a lot of the anti-Yuvraj drivel on social media is just that – drivel, I do want to address the ones that say, “Oh, how about the fireworks during the IPL?” It isn’t quite the same thing, you know – a whole nation bursting crackers and a few going off in a stadium. But, sure, I’m all for clamping down on that too, Supreme Court order or not. Of course, there is the whole separate discussion about the livelihoods of the cracker manufacturers – and of the fact that child labour has historically been a part of the fireworks industry.
The point is, Yuvraj and Kohli have made quite a bit of noise for a worthy cause. More power to them. And, hopefully, you’ll have a peaceful and quiet Deepavali and Kalipujo too.