ஆடி அழைக்கும், தை விரட்டும் is an adage in Tamil. The essence of the saying is that every year, starting mid-July and for the next six months, it is a festive season, culminating in Pongal that comes in mid-January. This is the time when a range of festivals bring people together in celebration.
Festivals revive and reinforce cultural traits. Togetherness with friends and relatives instills a sense of camaraderie, strengthens personal bonds and helps us build a support system for life. The ambience during festivals and the rituals or practices of each vary from one festival to another and adds variety, creating joy amidst the rush of daily life.
Designated holidays for these festivals provide time for everyone to relax and take much-needed breaks.
2020: The ‘washout year’
But alas! Here we are in 2020 — a year so dismal and gloomy as no other that any of us has ever experienced or even imagined. The pandemic and the resultant lockdown has deprived us of these simple joys as well. From tiny tots to elderly, everyone has had their routines thrown out of gear.
Students in crucial years of school and college find themselves in limbo, unsure of the next stage of life. Job losses for many, financial difficulties and hardships in travel have cumulatively taken the sheen out of the season we enter now. With more than half the year completed and uncertainties weighing down heavily, the remaining days of the year will likely see the same trend.
Festivals in 2020 are set to draw a blank, following the government’s regulations and restrictions over celebration and social gathering. Religious festivals could be a low key affair too, as they are not open to the general public in many places.
And so, brace yourselves for a Ganesh Chaturthi without idol worship and immersion, Dussera without Ravan Visarjanam or display of dolls, Diwali without crackers, Bakrid without offerings, Christmas without mass and ringing of bells and even the New Year could be ushered in without midnight revelries. This is the reality we must accept this year.
Loss of earnings
Apart from what we lose in terms of human connection on account of this washout, the following communities would take a professional hit and incur huge monetary losses in every festival:
The quantum of loss would be difficult to compute but it is likely to be very high.
And then of course, there is the intangible loss on account of all the missed celebrations and fervour within the larger community.
In summary, the washout is set to have a devastating effect on all. A festive season that under normal circumstances would have seen pomp and pageantry is set to be lost in mellow, sombre introspection for the first time in decades.
Not all is lost!
Yet, the washout has a rosier side and one can spot silver linings in the following:
1. Conservancy workers who have to spend back-breaking hours after every festival will get a respite, as garbage accumulation post celebrations will be less.
2. Celebrations being a low key affair, consumption of power and water will be less.
3. Fire accidents and the stress on fire stations this Diwali are likely to be low too.
4. Pollution that shoots up to abnormal levels every year is bound to be within limits.
5. Local travel and as well as holiday travel will minimal, which is also good for the ecology, as tourism takes a huge toll on the environment.
Lessons for all
The washout of cheer and festivities is indeed cause for frustration. Yet as reasonable humans, we should not let it take over our senses. We are passing through unprecedented times of distress and pain, a situation which even our forefathers had not seen.
Auvaiyaar in her Aathichoodi has said தேசத்தோடு ஒட்டி வாழ் (Live in unison with your country) and நாடு ஒப்பன செய் (Do what the nation wants). Our objective now is to defeat the pandemic. We have to do what it takes to keep the country safe, even if it is unpleasant.
We have come a long way through these five months of lockdown. This washout of the festival is yet another bridge that must be crossed. Let us sacrifice big celebrations this one year and commemorate festivals in a simple, personal manner. We must soldier on with the hope that we will emerge stronger and successful in the fight against COVID-19.