Saturday, November 6, 2010

Happy Diwali? Yeah, Right!

Yesterday was Diwali [1]. Quite apart from the fact that I think Diwali is a festival belonging to patriarchal religions with oppressive concepts, I dislike the main Diwali Day. I don’t like it because of the firecrackers [2]. Quite apart from the fact that they wreak havoc [3] on the environment, quite apart from the fact that the noise and smoke makes Diwali a harrowing experience for sick people and people with respiratory disabilities, quite apart from the fact that the majority of fireworks in India are made using child labour; I hate the firecrackers for what they do to nonhuman animals.

Yesterday evening, Chinie was frantically walking around the house, hiding beneath the sofa, hiding beneath my legs and trying to seek comfort from each of our family members in turn. Several buildings away, one of my friends’ dogs, Romeo and Bagheera, weren’t very relaxed either. Romeo hadn’t eaten anything since the day before and was shivering under the bed. Bagheera was coping, comparatively, a little better than Romeo. Along the streets, the usual packs of stray dogs were nowhere to be found. A little searching revealed that they were all holed beneath cars, behind bushes and in gutters, peeping out and trying to understand what the hell was going on. In a nearby tree, a panicky sparrow was trying to carry her two children to safety while scared out of her skin herself, not realising that they had already died due to shock. Hungry owls were forced back into shelters wondering why the time zone had changed abruptly. All this was due to crackers, several popping each second and three to four bursting with huge bangs each minute.

I am going to focus on Chinie, for now, because she was the one I spent the evening with. Let’s see a few pictures:

Chinie, under our sofa.

Warm and cosy in there Chinie?

Chinie, starting at the bang of a cracker.

Chinie, hiding beneath my legs.

Having an interesting experience, aren’t you Chinie?

Maybe you won’t be able to make out the fear and anxiety in her eyes because you don’t know her as well as I do. To discern terror, you need to observe body language as well, which a picture alone cannot express. To truly feel her pain; you’ll need to see her trembling; see her hiding behind our parents, starting at every sound, eyes darting from the doors to the windows; see her constantly tensed body, restless panting and pricked up ears; see her tail between her legs and not eating; refusing to go out, refusing to go out to relieve herself…

It is morning. The smoke is still there but the crackers have died out. You can still hear an occasional pop but the sound feels faded, not jarring like last night. Chinie has recovered quite a bit, though she still jumps at particularly loud bangs. She hasn’t slept much. My father puts on her leash and moves towards the door, he feels a tug and looks back. Chinie hasn’t moved. She is sitting firmly on her haunches with her feet dug in. My father tugs. He calls. I push her. Chinie doesn’t budge. It is necessary for her to relieve herself; she hasn’t done it since last afternoon. He finally ends up picking her and carrying her out. My father is Chinie’s favourite person amongst us and she never agrees to go out with anybody else when he is in the house. Walking with him is her favourite activity, and here she is staunchly denying a real treat. My father comes back with her and tells me he had to carry her all the way and when he finally set her down, she pooped quickly and, without even peeing, dragged him back home as fast as she could.

It is afternoon. I go out with Chinie. There is a rich carpet of fireworks’ remains and wrappers lining the streets, bits of half burnt paper and flash powder, cardboard casings and shells, everywhere… I shorten Chinie’s leash to make sure she does not touch the stuff with her mouth. She sniffs around.

Over at my friend’s place, Romeo still hasn’t eaten. He didn’t eat anything yesterday. Bagheera is traumatised as well.

There is the body of a crow on the ground. One side of hir face and wings is burnt. Ze had probably flown into an aerial firework at night. Along the way, there are two more bodies of birds under trees. A firework must have flown into the trees.

A dog peeps out from behind the bins where ze had been hiding. Ze tentatively moves out and looks around. Ze is hungry. The dog’s eyes fall on a half-eaten sweet lying a few paces away. Ze goes to it and sniffs. Ze begins to eat it and soon devours it. Unnoticed by the dog the sweet was lying amongst spent fireworks. It was coated on one side with flash powder. The dog soon throws up. Hir stomach starts aching after a while. Ze lies there twitching and moaning [4].

Chinie is on her way to recovering from all this. After all, she’s survived four Diwalis already. She’ll have to face it again, next year. Thanks to you.

[1] For those of you who don’t know what Diwali is, here’s some info:

[2] Firecrackers and fireworks are a traditional part of Diwali celebrations across the country.

[3] Oh boy, the havoc they wreak! I ventured out of my house late last night, to have a look around, and found a thick, thick layer of black stuff enveloping me. It was smog and it was thicker than winter fog at its peak. Here are some pictures I found of three cities across India.




A small NDTV video

That’s right! That stuff, people, is not winter fog but smog caused by Diwali fireworks!

[4] Here’s some more information about how crackers affect nonhumans. I don’t find any of the articles satisfactory enough but they are the best I could locate.

Some info on fireworks poisoning:

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