Fire crackers have been an integral part of Diwali celebrations. However, the increasing environmental awareness has resulted in far less noisy Diwali this time round. Parents of three toddlers filed a plea in the Supreme Court seeking a restriction on bursting of firecrackers in the morning and having a designated place for bursting firecrackers. This was turned down by the Supreme Court. There was another side which said that banning of firecrackers would hurt religious sentiments.

I remember our Diwali celebrations where the bursting of loud bombs and rockets were carried out by adults. We children were confined to less noisy fare- a black gooey thing called snake which when set on fire came out like a thick black snake, chakra which spun round at a fast pace shooting fire, phooljadi which rose like a huge bouquet of fire. All of these were almost silent but merrily polluted the air around. A few years later, we dared to light up the lavangi, a series of crackers strung together. Initially, I lighted it up and just as it caught the spark, ran away to a safe distance. Eventually, I could light it up with my right hand while holding the lavangi in the left. There were the toy guns in which were inserted a red roll containing a series of dot sized cracker. The effect of firing the gun was too mild but they definitely fired up the imagination.

However, the most interesting one was the apti bomb. It was like a small stone wrapped in silver. There was no need to light up. All one had to do was throw it hard on the ground and there was a mild explosion. Its potential for mischief was huge as unsuspecting passersby suddenly jumped in panic. No wonder it was subsequently banned.

Alarmed by the overall anti fireworks atmosphere, Tamilnadu Fireworks Manufacturers Association issued an advertisement that made some interesting claims. Indian fireworks production is second in the world after China. Indian fireworks is the safest in the world with a noise level standard of 125 dB at 4 meters as compared to the internationally permitted 131 dB at 4 metres. They claim that the gases emitted during bursting of crackers are not dangerous. For good measure, they add that one or two days of exposure to noise and fumes is not going to cause much pollution. There is much more continuous pollution due to automobile emissions, industrial chimneys, building construction works etc. Finally, they make the emotional appeal that says, ‘Sound and light are signs of happiness; darkness and silence denote sorrow and grief. So, be happy….enjoy Diwali with fireworks’.

My most memorable event related to firecracker was when we were studying in college. It was around Diwali. We had our meals inside a warehouse run by an elderly man, Mr.Bubna, who was stingy with second and multiple servings. Just before entering the warehouse, my daring friend lighted up an incense stick and attached a powerful bomb at the other end. He kept it just outside the warehouse and then we walked in to have our meals. Just when we had finished the dal rice, the powerful bomb went off, even shattering a glass near the window. The frightened Mr.Bubna jumped a couple of feet, peered out of the window and obviously did not find anyone. He took some time to recover. He then proceeded to rattle off a string of abuses to the unknown perpetrators. While I was trying hard to control my laughter, my friend coolly joined him in deploring the character of today’s youngsters. He was so convincing that Mr.Bubna was left with the impression that we were the only ones sympathetic to his predicament.

We had to stop some distance from the warehouse to let out our pent up laughter.

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