By Almas Shamim

Diwali, the ‘Festival of Lights’ as it is so often called, is more a festival of noise, smoke and lots of waste.

The noise coming from the ‘bombs’ are hardly pleasing to the ear and the smoke that builds up after long ‘ladis’ of ‘mirchipatakha’ have been lighted, can choke even those with the healthiest lungs!

In spite of this flip side, Diwali retains its position as one of the most awaited and widely celebrated festivals in the country. While it’s true that our environment and health would both be way better if certain components of Diwali- bursting crackers, for instance- were cut short, it is also true that such a Diwali may not be seen in the near future! So, accepting the fact that few of us, if any, would be interested in celebrating a completely ‘cracker-free’ Diwali, let us go through a few pointers that we should keep in mind with respect to our and our loved ones’ health:

1.I see-

And I want to continue seeing after Diwali is over. I’m sure you too would, so protect those eyes. Even tiny sparks from phuljhadis can cause damage to your eyes and you definitely don’t want to spend your Diwali evening sitting in G.B. Pant’s casualty. Special protective glasses are available online, but if you don’t want to order them- just being cautious and conscious enough to keep the crackers away from your body, especially eyes, can suffice.

2.I hear-

Plug some cotton in your ears. If not completely eliminate, they will at least dampen the impact of the noise on your eardrums.

3. I eat-

So you are placing big anaars to burn with your bare hands, distributing phuljhadis to little kids and then picking up the used up pataakhas and dumping them in a bucket of water (and not a plastic bucket!), and immediately afterwards you run back into your house and pick up that delicious motichoorkaladdu and lick your fingers after devouring it! Well- great ! But, remember to wash your hands before you eat it! Crackers carry heavy metals which are mighty toxic to our system. Let us try not gulping them down with our food.

4. I diet-

Go easy on the sweets! Are you a diabetic? Well, tempting as they are, sweets could be disastrous to your health. For some, even one can be too many. Keep alternatives ready for when your mouth would water, looking at others relishing sweets! Monitor and suitably alter your insulin or pills the coming days.

5. I feel-

Be considerate! If you know that there’s someone in or next to your house who is ill and may not be able to take the loud noise too well, or if there’s a young infant who will panic at the noise, be considerate to switch to crackers that are less noisy. Concern for asthmatics should not be forgotten who may not tolerate smoke well.

6. I prepare-

Medicine box- don’t have one? Great time to prepare one now. Though burns are the most commonly reported injuries during Diwali, other complaints that accompany festivals and marriages could be a problem now too. You could get a severe headache (what with all the noise), or acidity (what with all those sweets!). It’ll be better if you have some painkillers, gauze bandages, antacids at hand.

Of course, these are not the only points- precautions when dealing with fireworks can go on and on. Leaving you with a video on some more practical considerations in making this festive day a safe and healthy one.

Happy Diwali!

Almas Shamim is a public health specialist with a great interest in sexual and reproductive health and rights, and feminism among Muslim women. She currently works for an international humanitarian aid organization in New Delhi