Diwali, for most of us, has forever been the time to splurge...on ourselves, crackers, our homes, our relatives...with the operative word being “our”. With the way the wheels are turning for the economy at large and the environment in particular, this Diwali may be just the time to upgrade our celebrations, to align with the needs of our times.
Upcycle your old Diwali stuff: This festival always saw me first shop for lamps and lights... till a few years back that is. While I still cannot stop from admiring the latest diyas and kandeels to hit the market every year, they no longer make their way home with me, necessarily.
A group of our friends decided some years back to consciously cut down on these frivolous, earth-unfriendly spends – read plastic, non-biodegradable and non-recyclable material goodies...and revert to the way Diwali was celebrated during our parents’ salad days.
Prepare your list of to-ditch items: With gifts on our mind, can wrapping material be far behind? Do remember though that a lot of these wrappings are made up of plastic, thermocol and such other harmful bits and pieces, as do our precious crackers and the coloured sands we use for our multi-hued rangolis.
Why not opt for eco-friendly options wherever possible even if they be a little tedious? Choose loose flowers from your florists to create your wonder rangolis; ditch the firecrackers for only lights, and wrap your gifts responsibly with non-toxic options, such as old newspapers, handmade paper or even paper made from elephant poo...don’t believe us, just google it!
Think global, shop local: When you do shop, do so from your local artisans and become patrons who promote the ubiquitous, fledging arts and crafts industry of the place you call home.
Send your loved ones those homemade karanjis from the mausi who makes them by hand on order and pick the Warli cards by the rural artists to tag along with your Diwali hamper, and watch their eyes light up quite as much as the people who receive and savour these special goodies.
Gift your time over some goodies: As a child, I was keenly interested in the gifts and crackers coming my way, and it was a tad upsetting to have my parents mill us around to visit all our elderly and geriatric relatives bearing gifts and good tidings.
But today I see the value of that lesson learnt so early. With people (especially our elders) increasingly lonely especially during festivities, the set of senior neighbours who we regularly visit seem to actually look forward to them especially at Diwali and such holidays.
So much so, that some of us are wondering if we should add old age homes next on our list to spread some cheer.
Pass the good cheer to the dark corners of our society: Under the blinding lights of all our lamps, lights and crackers, if you look clearly there will be those that are surrounded by stark darkness even in this season of light.
It will be the homeless dwelling on the footpath on the way to your office; the thin, hungry stray animals on your way around the city...care to share the good cheer?
That one extra Diwali hamper may be all that they will smile about this season if you care to share with them. It may spell the difference between life and death for them, so please be sure to choose life by making them a part of your celebrations.
Adopt someone: It could be a stray, a child or a village... celebrate Diwali at an orphanage, an animal shelter or some such place that seeks a light joy from us and you will find the light of the festivities glow that much warmer in your own heart and hearth.
You don’t have to change your life; it could be a simple modification such as committing to contribute to the school fees of a needy child or ensuring that a nervous street animal finds shelter in a safe place where you can provide it nourishing food and clean water till the time it can manage on its own again.
Donate to NGOs and volunteer: With all the bonuses laden pockets, do spare a thought – and little more than spare change – for your favourite cause. When buying new stuff, please don’t discard the old, perfectly usable possessions into the garbage.
Pack your old usable clothes, shoes, books, toys, gadgets, crockery, etc. for people and NGOs who really need them. The only point to remember is that these are presentable and usable. If you can hand the presents out yourself, nothing like it will round off the gifts!
This Diwali, make it about “we” not “me”! Happy Diwali to you and yours!