My Autobiography – Deepavali: The Festival of Joy & Lights

Diwali crackers - chakra

Photo: Tatiraju.rishabh. Published under this creative commons license.

Deepavali was the real festival of joy & lights, at least in the Southern part of India where I live. No other festival is celebrated with so much vigour and enthusiasm, as this one. I have gone through a full 360-Degree experience with this festival.

When I was very young, we used to play with flowerpots, ground chakra, kambi matthappu and other such non-violent crackers. That was fine, and fun. But, when we moved to flats, older kids kept bombing the whole ground, as early as one month before the festival!

The most dreaded words back then were ‘Atom bomb’ and ‘Hydrogen bomb’. The sound generated by these two crackers were deafening. Once, someone announced that they were going to burst an atom bomb and I ran away to a safe place (two blocks away) and still closed my ears. I have no idea whether it was burst or not!

One day, I just returned from someplace and on seeing many guys bursting ‘bomb’ crackers, I hurried quickly to my house. One of my friends (2 years elder to me) called me and asked me to burst crackers along with him. I guess I made some excuse but he rightly found out that I was afraid. He said,

“See, I am also afraid of the larger bombs. But this one is ‘bijili vedi’. This is not so loud. Besides, you just need to light the tip of the thiri and run back here immediately. From here, it’s not so loud”

There seemed to be some logic in what he said. The first time, he came with me, showed me how to light the bomb and both of us ran away after it was lit. What he said was right. I found that if we get away to a safe distance, bursting bombs can be fun! That started the fun-filled festival that Deepavali would become!

In the mornings, there was a race for bursting the first bomb. I did it once πŸ™‚ Since my block had the largest ground in the front, people from all other blocks came here to burst crackers. As you can imagine, the sound was deafening and the atmosphere was electric. It was almost impossible to cross that ground during Deepavali mornings. We challenged each other to do it!

Once, one boy was about to burst a bomb at a distance. Some guys from here passed some ‘overconfident’ comments. He immediately turned the direction of the bomb and lit it. There was one sound there and another sound near us! We were stunned. We asked him what it was, and he said ‘Double Sound’. All of us bought the double sound immediately!

The normal bombs were biliji, kuruvi and lakshmi vedi. Of course, the saram (100 wala, 1000 wala, 5000/10000 wala) was also popular. The atom bombs and hydrogen bombs were only for the bravest. I remember lighting it a couple of times. In-spite of our repeated requests, our parents never bought us rockets due to an accident that happened in our complex. Hence it was banned.

The nights were even better as all the flower pots, ground-chakras/hand-chakras and so many lighted crackers filled up our view. All the families were on the ground and having fun. I remember sitting on the terrace to observe the various crackers that burst in the sky. Of course, Deepavali meant special dishes, sweets, TV programs/latest movies and so many other fun activities. We used to visit our relatives place, at times.

As I got older and since we moved out of flats, I lost interest in bursting crackers. We still used to burst some crackers on the terrace, until before three years.

When I was 27, I had the worst Deepavali experience of my life. We went to a relatives’ house and a mind-blowing amount of crackers were accumulated there. I was considered as one of the ‘kids’ and was forced to burst a lot of crackers! I observed how ‘mob-mentality’ works. I observed how ‘grouping’ could could induce the, ‘If I do it, you should do it too, otherwise you’ll be ridiculed’ attitude.

During this time, I also began to consider other facts like how children were forced to work in cracker-factories and how unsafe conditions in the factories led to the death of many people. I also got to know that the sound of crackers were unbearable for dogs/birds. Needless to mention the air pollution and noise pollution created by crackers. That was it. I decided that I will never burst a cracker again, whatever be the ‘pressure’ on me.

Would I have taken the same decision 15 years back, when bursting crackers was so much fun? No. In fact, I did not. Looking back, I am surprised on why it took 27 years for me to come to this simple and obvious decision!

Destination Infinity

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27 thoughts on “My Autobiography – Deepavali: The Festival of Joy & Lights

  1. Nice post. I think you are younger than me. You mentioned all the vedis. But never mentioned the “cape vedi”. Let me know how your thalai deepawali was. I think you are married. Nee namma veettu/aathu mappilai.

    1. No, I am still happy.

      The cape vedi/toy guns – yes I forgot about them. I guess I forgot about so many other vedi’s too… I did not want the article to run into pages! πŸ™‚

      Destination Infinity

  2. hmmmm .. Well since a long time back I have always loved fireworks and any given oppurtunity I love blasting them.. I went to a cousins wedding a couple of years back Just because I could burn crackers ..

    and now also cant wait for the 13th november although I am yet to buy my own fireworks yet but will do soon.. I actually save all year alone a 20-30 pound a month JUST to spend all of them on diwali ..

    I know about how child labour and other wrong things about fireworks but I just love them ..

    My dad use to not like them and I would pester him so much, that he had to relent and buy me some every diwali ..

    1. I only said that people who don’t want to be bursting any crackers (me) need to be left alone and not be forced to burst them. I did not say anything else. I just think that each person can decide for themselves whether to burst crackers or not. BTW, very few people can retain the passion for such things in life. They are the lucky ones!

      Destination Infinity

  3. One cracker that I hate a lot was the atom bomb. And its sound makes my heart skip a beat. I long stopped busting load crackers and I only prefer to bijili and sparrow. For last few years I am more interested on Arial outs and looking at the sky for their display is the usual thing for me during Deepavali.

    I’m sure it must be rocking when all burst at one place… I think it is the best way of celebrating deepavali as well sharing the joy and crackers. Instead of going alone with lot of crackers I wish everyone gather at one place and bust crackers, will sure reduce the amount of buying and pollution at same.

    Good reading your deepavali experience and my advance wishes πŸ™‚ Wish I too get the mindset of not bursting crackers, but it’s very hard to forgive quite!

    1. I think we should not force ourself to get into the mindset of not bursting crackers. But we should be able to do so, when we eventually get there…

      Destination Infinity

  4. As a kid I liked bursting crackers only for a few teenage years and after that gradually the interest waned. Then came our kid came along and when he started school, he was taught right from KG, “Say NO to Crackers”, so we followed that for many years, till last year, he got all excited to burst them again! (He was 10 last year) and now this year he is in a boarding school, so no diwali break at home for him and no crackers in school, so we are forcibly saying, “No to Crackers” πŸ˜€

    1. At that age (10) it is very difficult not to burst crackers. I am sure I would have cried so much, if I was not allowed to. Once, I did not sleep during the night as my father said, ‘Let’s go buy crackers tomorrow morning’. I was so excited!

      Destination Infinity

  5. We were five brothers and sisters, when I was small. We had very limited quantities of crackers. I was the boldest after my younger brother and burst crackers1

    My sons burst until a few years back. Now we have stopped buying crackers for many years now. Sometimes go to our relatives’ place and son joins in bursting crackers. I like to watch flower pots! But all of us have lost interest. Yes, the child labour also haunts.

    1. The primary motivation for not bursting crackers, as you have mention, is losing interest. I lost interest in bursting crackers a few years back but I was doing it because everyone else in the family was. But these days, I don’t burst crackers. They also don’t compel me any more…

      Destination Infinity

  6. I think Diwali is more about oil bath, sweets, savouries and visit to relatives places. It is also about flaunting your dresses. In north most light up diyas. They may decorate with electric lights too.
    Children enjoy crackers. We buy the branded variety only. Though may be costing more.

    1. When we were kids, the festival was more about bursting crackers. That was what we had in our minds! Everything else you mentioned was there, but we did not concentrate on them.

      Destination Infinity

    1. Well, I guess I need to grow up to the level of attaining inner peace, whatever be the outside ‘conditions’ πŸ™‚

      Destination Infinity

  7. I totally understand and relate to the conclusion of your post. These are the other perpectives which we fail to think of, as children. How the loud sounds affect babies, the elderly and also animals. The plight of children employed in making crackers. The noise and air pollution.

    To begin with I have anyway hated bombs (and still do). Why do you have to celebrate it by going nearly deaf, I can never understand πŸ˜›

    I have often wondered why people cannot just follow the rest of the tradition and stick to that : make sweets at home, visit each other, spend time with family, light diyas and light up the home (rather than polluting with loud crackers and bombs).
    These days it is a competition of who can create the loudest noise. 😐
    Although that is slightly changing since children these days are being taught at school about the harmful effects of this. I welcome the change.

    1. Back then, the length of the ‘sara vedi’ was an indication of bravery and status! 1000-wala, 2000-wala, and more were given special respect!

      Fortunately, the kids near my house don’t create so much noise as we did in our flats! πŸ™‚ It’s a very good move to teach children about the harmful effects of crackers. A few of them might at least reduce the amount of crackers they burst due to it!

      Destination Infinity

  8. no where it is written and mentioned that one needs to burn crackers,
    deepawali means burning a light , ghee light not harrassing everyone from babies to sick persons to animals.

    1. I guess the cracker industry played a part in the misrepresentation. Of course, greedy people might want to create a showpiece. Anyway, I don’t have anything against people who burst crackers, but I do want people to be sensitive enough to leave others alone when they don’t want to burn crackers.

      Destination Infinity

  9. I love fireworks, and although I’m in my late 20’s I am a little kid in the heart when it comes to fireworks. In the UK, we have a day called Bonfire day on 5th of November. Due to my visit out of the country, I missed this years Bonfire day and returned to the UK on the 6th. But usually in the UK, everyone goes mad with fireworks and I love them.

    When we we kids, we use to start early in lighting fireworks, often days earlier. I can’t admit that we were sensible as kids, but we use to enjoy ourselves while the fun lasted.

    Luckily, the standard in the UK of importing fireworks are vetted and checked very carefully so that they don’t break any rules or standards.

    1. Yes, we too started very early. Often 1 month before the actual festival! I didn’t know about Bonfire day in the UK. I always wanted to know during which festivals/occasions people abroad might burst crackers.

      Destination Infinity

  10. Good post! Reminded me of my childhood. I used to enjoy bursting crackers. But I feel frightened nowadays. This Diwali I will try to overcome my fear and relive my younger years:))

  11. Better late than never DI. Many schools are taking the initiative to get their students to say no to crackers these days.

    I had always been afraid of crackers and the only ones I went near were the mathapu and flower pots. As I grew older the dislike only intensified especially since I read about the child labour involved. But my children liked it so we bought them, till the younger one, then 8 saw a documentary on child labour and gave them up. He would sit and read a book as his friends burst them and refused to even go and watch them.

    1. Wow, such maturity at the age of 8 is too good. I was having so much fun bursting crackers back then! It is good to know that schools are taking the initiative to teach children about the ill-effects of crackers.

      Destination Infinity

  12. it’s been almost 10 years now that i celebrated diwali by burning crackers .. it was more of a green diwali everytime in last few years and before that it was the annoying noise of crackers i can’t stand and the pollution it creates….

  13. Lakshmi Vedi and Atom Bombs are not bad for just babies but for everyone. Any ‘sound’ cracker is for up there in the skies like how professionals do it, even there no atom bomb level sound. If you observe Indians more than others are half-deaf by age 45, main reason being constantly exposed to ground-level loud crackers not just during diwali but almost everyday – crackers are burst for every festival as well as for any celeberation – from weddings to any and all sundry political and sports victories. The destruction of the ear (and sometimes heart) does not need a sustained assault such as diwali, even a random atom bomb can do it.

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