I do have the tendency to implode at the slightest transgression; be it a speeding car or someone littering the street. My wife calls me an angry old man. Fair enough. But what really startles me during seasonal festivities or in our everyday life in India is the profound disregard for the community. The convivial celebrators perturb me but and my visible disdain goes unnoticed by the authorities.
Hindu temples and the purportedly religious patrons feel it is their right to disturb my sleep. I cannot even count the number of times their night long inordinate jagrans have roused me from my deep slumber. One time I mustered the courage to walk into a temple to educate them that there were more civilized ways to express their reverence than waking up the entire town in the wee hours of morning. “You have no problem with the call to pray in Mosques so don’t lecture us”, I was told in an impolite tone. I decided it was best not to argue with unintelligent people. They were too engrossed in their liturgical exercise to worry about flouting the Noise Pollution (Regulation and Control), 2000 or complying with the ambient noise quality standards. Or maybe they thought that I belonged to the Muslim faith because of my curly beard. A call to the police station did not evince a comforting response. “We do not interfere in religious matters”, the policeman told me. My innards were knotted and I did my best to conceal the visceral rage I endured. Dissatisfied and dispirited, I walked home. May be if reincarnation is true, I want to be born in America in my next, I thought to myself. Except Trump everything appears to be promising in that country.
So go on polluting the skies during the Hindu festivals of Dusshera and Diwali or anytime Dhoni hits a six and no one will stop to check you. Smear the streets with colour on Holi and use gallons of water. Who cares? India has an abundance of water. Air pollution, noise pollution and climate change is a myth. The cancerous air in New Delhi post the festival of lights does not seem to be bothering anyone. Life goes on as usual.
Religion in our society is sacrosanct. This idea has been deeply ingrained in the collective consciousness of the masses. Don’t you dare question it. Its tenants are unassailable. But in its pursuit to keep the electorate happy, the state must realize its other responsibility. It is vitally important that it monitors and appropriately regulates religious practices. The government has not encouraged communal pyrotechnics. It happens in many cities across the globe. Why do authorities allow the sale of firecrackers on busy streets with no regard for public safety? Regulation regarding the sale of firecrackers exist but like in most cases the implementation appears to be weak. Banning firecrackers altogether is not a feasible decision because that will have ramifications for the various stakeholders; manufacturers, labour force and employment. But it is imperative that the government regulates the industry and celebrations in general, because the threat of pollution is looming on us.
India’s burgeoning middle class has the resources today to spend lavishly. A steady rise in population has only resulted in more emissions. As the Indian economy continues its inexorable rise, steps need to be taken to foster an understanding of the detrimental effects of the uproarious festivities we engage in. The World Health Organization’s study released last week is a scathing testament of planning gone wrong. 600,000 people could have died due to air pollution in 2012. The number is astonishing and measures need to be taken to mitigate the damage done. Meanwhile I am praying that the music from the temple next door does not disturb me tonight.
The writer is a political commentator. He can be reached at [email protected]