According to the Times of India dated15 November.
“Diwali this year was quieter but left the city’s air more polluted..”
Okay, well if that is true then last year must have been a riot. For the days leading up to, and including Diwali, on the 13 November, we were in New Delhi, the capital of India. During the days the markets were ablaze with colour and sound, Indians were out on mass buying the final presents, decorations and rangoli mats, as now in Delhi at least most are simply printed and bought rather than created themselves.
In England I am more used to Matchmakers and Quality Street but here the sweet stalls are a flow with all manner of soft, sweet goodness and just to counter this there are the assortment boxes of mixed nuts and dried fruits which simply must be in every Indian home.
So, Diwali itself, the thirteenth. Big day. Two new Bollywood films are released today at the cinema, Son of Sardaar and Jab Tak Hai Jaan which stars Shahruhk Khan and is partially set in London. We are at a local Delhi market as things start to wind up a little at prayer time, two o’clock. There have been fireworks going off for days so we figure that will intensify tonight, oh how little we knew.
It’s seven o’clock and we have returned to our hotel in Paharganj, the sleazy, neon lit mental asylum centered around the New Delhi train station. The streets are lined with shops and temples, most of which have lit lights or candles outside, the streets are jam packed as usual with cycle rickshaws, tuk tuks, taxis, people, dogs, cows and armed police. Fireworks and bombs are everywhere. I use the word bombs carefully because the explosions some of these fireworks make are absolutely incredible. The smog has descended on the city and the smoke from the pyrotechnics mixes with this to make a lung clogging soup of pollution which is certain to shorten my lifespan by at least a couple of days, days later in a new town and I’m still coughing.
As we travel through the streets in a tuk tuk we see kids on the street setting light to the touchpaper of massive fireworks a few meters ahead of us as we travel towards them at a snails pace in our horribly vulnerable, open sided vehicle, it really is a game of Russian roulette.
People are loving it however, these celebrations are not based around booze although the beer shop was very busy yesterday, Diwali is still very religious, the temples are busy and the sounds and smells of puja, or prayer, figure strongly in the scenes we witnessed. The fireworks take their toll on the city of course, not just in the form of smog but also in the form of the estimated 1200 tonnes of Diwali waste produced in Delhi alone, according to The Times of India.
Next time we celebrate Diwali in India maybe watching the lanterns lift from the Ganges at Varanasi will be what we go for, but this was an experience, I don’t feel the need for fireworks at new year however.