Till not so long ago, Diwali used to be anticipated with trepidation by the aged, the sick, and new parents for all that the festival of lights brought with it — the startling blasts of noise, dense air of poisonous gloom hanging over the city, litter all over, and the slew of burn injuries.
This year, however, things were different. Noise pollution levels were discernibly low, hospitals reported fewer burn cases, and the air smelt that much more cleaner. If the BMC is to be believed, even the load of litter was as good or bad as on any normal day.
Mumbai had pulled it off. A less noisy, cleaner, and better Diwali. But how did this happen?
While the media and non-governmental organisations no doubt played their part, the city can pat itself on its back thanks largely to the awareness growing in a bottom-up manner, with schools being the agents of change. Previous generations did not have the benefit of such awareness campaigns. At best, they were warned about how to let off firecrackers safely. Noise and air pollution and consideration for others were not thought to be important enough.
With the new generation, the emphasis is on celebrating without harassing others, for which schools deserve a chunk of the credit.
Once an idea gets impregnated in a young mind, there is no stopping it from seeping quickly into the society at large.
While we hope this becomes the norm for all festivals in the future — and we have no doubt it will — there is another lesson here. That if you create awareness in our children about pressing social issues at a young age, not only will it stay with them for life, but it will also spread far and fast.
That probably is the biggest lesson for us all this Diwali.