As I sit to compose my next blog, nothing better crosses my mind than an ode to this delightful month of hope and excitement, which we have celebrated year after year soaked in religious sentiments and emotions…the most auspicious time of the year for starting new ventures, house warmings or weddings. Albeit this year, the spirits are dampened, the enthusiasm seems to have been robbed by the dreadful COVID 19. This, further impels me to go through this period remembering the happy times and the transformation that has taken place in our attitude over the years.
Come October and India is abuzz with activities and excitement. It all starts with the 9 pious days, followed by a series of month long festivities. India being a treasure trove of diverse cultures and religions, the entire year is in fact marked with celebrations and festivals which are celebrated by one and all irrespective of their social or economic status. However, this particular period is like carnival time here, basically commemorating triumph of good over evil. The markets bustling with people thronging to enjoy the shopping extravaganza make the atmosphere vibrant and a memorable experience.
This month is also the transition time in meteorological conditions…winter starts to set in and is the most beautiful time of the year. Actually it marks the pre-winter month, Autumn (fall season) and in India we call it Sharad Ritu (Sharad means Autumn and Ritu, also my name, meaning season). The pure and gentle weather manifests clear skies with countless stars; migrating birds, earthy colors of the surrounding infuse virility and liveliness all around offering the most ideal conditions for sowing seeds for winter flowers; pansies, verbenas, phloxes and petunias with dancing marigolds bringing sunshine to the garden. This pleasant season enables people to break free from their humdrum routine and take out time to enjoy.
The concept of rejoicing has undergone a major change in the past few years. There were times when with the onset of this season, major cleaning and painting of houses, shopping of new clothes and items for home, indulging in homemade sweets, buying gifts for friends and families used to kickstart with proper planning and budgeting and for children it meant break from school, time to feast and enjoy. I vividly remember, my parents used to start planning for these days well in advance and I always had my list ready much before time of what all I would love for my doll house which too needed an annual upgradation and beautification and my brothers ready with their list to buy an array of crackers. Every household was illuminated with oil lamps and glittering lights. Soaked in religious fervour and festive spirit for days, people enjoyed fireworks and crackers as they burst into colorful sparks in the dark sky and brought cheer amongst revellers, ignorant of any air or sound pollution. No one ever cared about phenomenons like global warming…life was carefree. Little did people realize that bursting crackers contributed exponentially to the increase in air pollution. Celebration was never considered calamitous though we started hearing of pollution from the 1970s.
As we grew, realization dawned and we started controlling ourselves and brought in certain changes…more than fireworks, lighting up the house and decorating it became more important. The essence of the festive month of catching up with near and dear ones, exchanging gifts has remained intact over the decades. We started enjoying fireworks collectively getting together, organized for all people in the station, which brought down the smoke levels and our conscience did not prick us.
Things have changed, life and situations have changed too…which gradually have brought a major shift in our mindset. Human activities and negligence resulting in environmental degradation has brought in a twist in the traditional fervor. The true spirit and significance of these festivals is losing it’s charm. The main contributory factors being modernization and globalization which have taken over the inculpability linked to the manner in which we celebrated all these festivals. It was more inclusive and even people with limited means enjoyed the festivities. Now people have become more self-focused and are moving away from their tradition and culture. Working couples find this time as an opportunity to unwind, they prefer to go on a vacation during this break rather than go the traditional way. With no dearth for money, new dresses and items for home can be bought at any time of the year. It’s poignant to see the traditional clay diyas (oil lamps) and decoration items losing out to the fancy lights and stuff in the market. The good old ways of festivals and celebrations are far more merrier than the way it is being translated into. We should not let our coming generations, forget the glorious heritage, culture and traditions who treat it like “Sale Months” or “Mega discount” days. Rather it is on us to reflect and recreate that connect with the past and teach them the importance of these festivals so that they learn to rejoice these special days with the family.
This too shall pass…in the process of defeating the virus, we have probably learnt to value the little things and realize the importance of our existence. Let the blooms of this month, the cool breezy winds with nip in the air and its freshness always remind us of the numerous fragrant moments we savored along with our families.