A brighter festival of lights

As Diwali approached, I decided it would be a good idea to re-post ‘A brighter festival of lights’, which I had originally posted on August 05, 2013. So, without taking up any more time, let me wish you HAPPY DIWALI and leave you to enjoy the read!

“How much will we be spending on fireworks this Diwali?” my 12 years old son asked me one evening. “Last year, we got all that you wanted for about Rs. 1000. I suppose we’ll spend about Rs. 1,500 this year since prices would have increased, plus there will be some new fancy stuff that you guys will want. Anyway, why are you asking this now? Diwali’s over a month away,” I replied.

He explained that there had been a lot of discussion in school about the exploitation of child labour in the fireworks industry, as a result of which many students had decided to boycott fireworks as a mark of protest. He and his 9 years old brother had both decided to join the boycott. No, they did not want to buy anything for themselves instead of fireworks. They felt that would not be a genuine boycott. Instead, they wanted the ‘fireworks money’ to be donated to an orphanage near our house.

Both my spouse and I were delighted! At the same time, we wanted to be sure that our sons were not committing themselves to something that they would regret later when their high spirits had cooled down. After all, they were just 12 and 9 years old! We asked them a few questions to find out if they were fully aware of the implications of their decision.

Both brothers had discussed the matter threadbare before speaking with us. They had decided that, not only would they not buy fireworks, they would not join any Diwali celebrations involving fireworks. They planned to continue this boycott for subsequent years until they were completely convinced that exploitation of children in the fireworks industry had totally and genuinely stopped. They were not sure whether their friends were equally firm in their resolve to boycott fireworks, but for them there was no going back.

That year, we celebrated Diwali without any fireworks. We donated the ‘fireworks money’ to the orphanage. It was clear from the reduced sound levels that many other children had joined the boycott.

The next year, most children withdrew the boycott of fireworks, stating that they were buying fireworks manufactured by companies that did not use child labour. However, our sons continued their boycott because it was reported that, while some manufacturers had stopped employing children directly, their sub-contractors continued to exploit child labour. Our donation to the orphanage was suitably increased to match the expected increase in fireworks prices.

Our sons were aware that their continued boycott of fireworks invited disparaging comments from some of their peers, but they never went back on their decision. We continue to make a donation to the orphanage every Diwali, with the amount suitably increased every year.

Our sons’ Compassion (towards the child labourers and the orphans) and Integrity (in refusing to use the ‘fireworks money’ for themselves) enhanced the brightness of our Diwali, the ‘festival of lights’!

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18 thoughts on “A brighter festival of lights

  1. That is really commendable. ..:) the future indeed looks brighter than the present. a very happy diwali to you and your family 🙂 and pls do check out my reply to the liebster …have left a comment on your liebster post. When you do get the chance. Have a nice day! 🙂

  2. I vividly remember that when I was about 15 odd yrs old was when I first heard about child labor in these firework manufacturing facilities and that was the year when me and two of my other close friends who used to celebrate Diwali together decided to get rid of the fireworks tradition that we had religiously and enthusiastically followed for the past 10 yrs now. It has been 18 yrs since that decision and I am proud to say that all of us still stick to that decision we made.

    Awesome commitment by your sons, they must surely be commended for having thought of others at an age when it is really hard to live up to peer pressure.

    • There are quite a few persons who have started refraining from the fireworks part of Diwali celebrations. All should try to spread the message. There is a risk that friends won’t like having to listen to such a message, but it’s a risk worth taking.

  3. Happy Diwali from Kitty & me.
    More and more kids of gen-next India have joined the No-No to fireworks bandwagon and that is extremely great for hamara mahaan bharat!
    There are still hopes despite the vitiated.
    political climate.

  4. I’m just amazed at the way these little souls think these days. At their age if my mom used to refuse us the only packet of phuljadi, 2 anars and 2 chakris, I used to crib all along. But our kids are indeed marvels when it comes to things like these. I believe it has got a lot to do with the openness they have with us. We were never given so much freedom to decide or let alone discuss things like these. Kudos to your boys and a Very Happy and Prosperous Deepavali to you and your loved ones. 🙂

  5. This message can be posted every Diwali , to remind us what the true meaning of Diwali is, and ultimately the true meaning of Life.

  6. It is such a wonderful thought – every year in the festive season I ask myself, whether all this wastage is necessary – if we didn’t do that for one year and just donated the whole money, what it couldn’t do? I guess we will never understand the true potential and values.

  7. We should always encourage children to shun firecrackers. Even if the companies are not employing child labour, there is an adverse effect on the environment.
    This is a very inspiring page from your life.

  8. Pingback: A brighter Diwali! | Proactive Indian

  9. Pingback: Counting My Blessings Each Day | Vidya Sury, Collecting Smiles

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