Much like everything else, celebration doesn’t quite look the same in 2017 as it did several decades ago. In a country thriving on culture, a culture rooted in festivals, and festivals morphing into an amalgamation of the old ways and 21st-century fluorescence, has the light that sparked it all lost on the way? We have come a long way from the days of burning crackers without consequence and being able to see the Karwa Chauth moon from the first floor of a building. Things have changed. The buildings are growing taller, the smoke thicker, and celebration seems to be waning from modern life if not disappearing completely. The embargo on crackers in Delhi sure echoes the sentiment loud and clear. Some find it unfathomable, “a Diwali without the sound of crackers?” Perhaps, it’s time to move away from this reductive notion of what our festivals represent. After all, celebration isn’t limited to the staccato burst of bijli bam, it isn’t short lived like the nighttime rocket whizzing towards the sky one second and then gone the next, it runs deeper, burns brighter. Celebration is an acknowledgment of what we value, like the joy of sharing priceless moments with the ones we love and that hasn’t changed at all. In the year of 8th iPhone release, the year of fidget spinners, and the year in which the winter finally came, celebration is not disappearing, it has merely transformed!
Whether it has transformed for the better or worse is most strikingly evident from the recent ban on firecrackers in Delhi. No matter the outrage it elicited, the compliance and the support of the masses has been phenomenal. That is the remarkable culture we are building now. A culture that looks outwards, thinks of others, is more selfless and holistic. Continuing with the self-sabotaging rituals that appeared to be harmless for decades might not be the most pragmatic of ways to protect and nurture culture. You know something is a step in the right direction when schools won’t have to be closed for days just to tackle the post-Diwali pollution. It’s a new world we live in, and our problems are new. There was no provision for battling pollution in our old cultural know-how, and there will be none if we stringently hold on to the same ideas. Establishing new cultural practices isn’t simply a matter of vanity in 2017, it’s a mandatory paradigm shift that was a long time coming. We should welcome it with open arms instead of needlessly fighting it.
Many claim that we are losing our cultural identity, that we no longer follow the same age-old practices that reflect our “true culture”, as if something like that ever existed. What does “true” culture even mean? Culture is supposed to reflect what a society is and not the other way round. In a sense, it is a mossy rock tumbling downhill, collecting dust and debris along the way, constantly changing into something new and unprecedented, marking what the world looks like. Culture isn’t about clinging onto the existing practices, it’s about practicing the same old things in brand new ways, it is transitive. Doesn’t buying clothes and dressing up for Diwali represent the culture? Then how is a Diwali makeup tutorial on YouTube any less cultural? The answer is, it’s not, and it didn’t exist ten years ago. That’s what Diwali looks like in 2017. It may be true the crackers are gone, but jio is on! No longer do you need to be homesick on festivals. With 4g LTE technology, any place is a home away from home. For the people who would argue that “it’s not the same”, we are making things happen by traveling around the world, clad with pocket-sized culture, sprinkling it like pixie dust wherever we set foot that now namaste is as global as we are. So, yeah it may not be the same, but it sure is something.
Festivals now include Snapchat filters and Instagram stories, DIY decorations and digital diyas, greetings on WhatsApp and whatnot. That’s just what 21st-century celebrations looks like, why the hate, we say? Embrace it!
The cynicism attached with sci-fi-ing the world is getting a tad bit older. One could argue that Diwali memes bring people together like nothing else! So, the culture isn’t lost at all. It wears a new face now. It’s a culture of traveling hundreds of thousands of kilometers in air miles to get to your family, a culture of saying NO to crackers and a(slightly less than emphatic) YES to relatively healthier lungs, a culture of organic/low carb mithai, a culture of blaring Om Jaye Jagadeesh Hare in 5.0 surround sound. It’s a culture of accepting change…