Are customs and festivals so important that one can even put one’s own and others’ lives at risk to maintain or celebrate these? Are we so obsessed with our tradition and beliefs that we are ready to put our loved one’s lives at stake? Well, looking at the current scenario in the country, it seems like it. Though the recent festival season, accompanied by the government’s orders to re-open temples, came as a big relief for a religious society like ours, it definitively didn’t work in favor of the country’s health.
The recent incident of flooding of a showroom in Chennai gives rise to similar concerns. According to the recently broadcasted news on one of the country’s national news channels, the showroom was jam-packed by a massive mob gathered to do festive shopping, negating all the government SOPs for COVID.
Well, residing in Chennai, this was not at all surprising for me as this has become a routine affair here. Not only in Chennai, but a similar situation resonates in other parts of the country as well. Every day, I hear similar stories of people’s apathy towards the situation from my friends and relatives residing in different cities and even abroad. It is ironic and disappointing to see that the human race hasn’t learnt anything even after losing such a huge percentage of its population to the recent and ongoing pandemic.
India’s condition is even more precarious, where people take pride in their traditions and beliefs even at the stake of others’ lives. And they have all arguments to justify such acts until something happens in their own family. According to a recent report by NDTV, a government-appointed committee has predicted a fresh spike in the number of Covid cases due to the onset of winter and upcoming festivals, despite India crossing its coronavirus peak. It is expected to see an addition of 26 lakh cases within a month.
Another report by Financial Express titled ‘Coronavirus in India: Festivals are super spreaders’ stated how Ganesh Chaturthi proved to be a disaster period. There was a significant spike seen in the Covid cases in Maharashtra, especially Mumbai, during this time. Also, a day before the commencement of pooja festivities, West Bengal recorded its highest daily addition of 3,677 cases.
But all these warnings proved to be of no use for a country like India, where the burden of relations is very heavy. Even if it is against your own wish, you might end up trying to maintain these relations. My mother was the recent victim of this relative-pleasing culture. She had to attend a housewarming function organized by one of her extended family members, which she could not afford to miss, especially because her in-laws hosted it. Though a gathering of a limited number, it ultimately infected her, followed by numerous days of suffering, pain, fear, and uncertainty for her and all of us.
Another shocker was a wedding ceremony organized just behind our apartment in Perungudi, Chennai. At least a hundred people must have attended the function conducted on a house’s roof, that too, without any social distancing and masks on their faces. At that moment, I remembered my own wedding, which was attended by merely 50 people as my husband and I chose to keep it restricted even during pre-Covid times to keep our ceremony simple and subtle.
Though I don’t find any lack of love and harmony in our marital bond, there are occasional hiccups when some relatives complain about making them feel left out. Simple weddings can do good for our society in so many ways, like saving money, lessening the financial burden on the bride’s family, and making the entire journey peaceful. Still, it is disheartening that people always choose vanity, ego, and snobbishness over simplicity.
The above picture was taken just a week before. People can be seen clustered in a famous cloth and grocery showroom situated in Chrompet, Chennai, to do the festival shopping. With no social distancing and face masks hanging below their chins, it is sure that we will be witnessing a spike in Covid cases very soon.
Then there was another incident in the Neelankarai region of Chennai, in which I could see a gang of young boys with no masks on their faces dancing energetically to the tunes of a drummer tied through a thick supporting cloth across one of the boy’s shoulders. It was a procession for a God, who I am sure would not be able to vouch for their safety. As it is rightly said, “Trust God but lock your car.”
My anger while witnessing such irresponsible behavior of people can be attributed to the fact that I have been married off into a family of medical practitioners. These practitioners tirelessly work day and night to save even that one life if they could afford to. And like other Corona warriors, they are most vulnerable to this deadly disease and can’t afford to sit at their homes like the rest of us who can but prefer to go out for all avoidable reasons risking others’ lives. And thus, all the drama surrounding tali, thali, and the flower shower looks like a sham. The best honor or gift one can give these warriors is their support in fighting this pandemic only by sitting at home until something urgent compels us to step out of our homes.
The irony is that challenging people’s beliefs had always been a sensitive issue. The moment you question their behavior, it will hurt their religious sentiments, and they will not leave any stone unturned to justify their acts even if it concerns their loved ones’ and their own lives. If only people could control their religious fervor a little this year and instead celebrated their festivals in a minimalistic way sitting at home, India could have come much closer to winning the fight against this pandemic.