TODAY -

Festival! Thy name is pollution!

Seikhojam Kipgen *

State Level Kut Festival - Chin-Kuki-Mizos Festival at 1st Manipur Rifles compound, Imphal  :: 1 November 2013
Kut Festival - Chin-Kuki-Mizos Festival at 1st Manipur Rifles compound in November 2013 :: Pix - Ashok Ningthoujam / Deepak Oinam



We are all aware of our modern, sophisticated and highly industrialized global village where the care-free innate nature of men prop up almost in continual succession on all occasion of our celebrations. It is during festivities that we tend to stretch to our maximum 'madness' and boastfully declare that the earth is mine and only mine alone. We are practically too obsessed with our festivals. Majority of us are extrovert, hedonistic and thoroughly ignoramus.

Today, festivals and occasional celebrations are no longer confined to isolation and are no more the affairs of a handful of people/community/village unlike in the past. All of us desired to have it done in a big way, always the biggest ever. Though any festival has its own unique importance, how small or big it might be, our manner of celebration is more of a mere noise other than giving value to the importance and uniqueness that binds the occasion both culturally and religiously.

India is one country where the gods generally do not wake up unless we resort with a 'bang' and the gods perhaps, listen only to loud noises! So said by many renowned authors on ecology. Any celebration is incomplete without those advanced, loud and harmonized systems that we dearly called 'PA system' and 'Sound System'.

Several examples can be cited as, Chavang Kut of the Kukis, Lui-Ngai-Ni and Ganngai of the Manipur Nagas, Yaoshang of the Meiteis, Bol-Bam, Dipawali, Durga Puja, Christmas & New Year and so on. In-fact, there are numerous others too in the list that cannot be neglected, but I prefer not to mention here for the sake of space.

Now-a-days, we have gone many, many steps forward into all our celebrations. Surprisingly, the more advanced we are, the more pressure we give to our beautiful environment. During Christmas & New Year celebrations, adjacent villages put up their horns as high as possible using the highest bamboo pole or 'scaffold', releasing maximum voltages to make the sound reach high and far. The competition is practically to test the loudness and durability of its make-Chinese, German, British, Indian, etc., but not necessarily a solemn ceremony and divine worship and claim, 'Ours or theirs is louder' while taking pride in being the best. Imagine the situation when three or more villages existed in close proximity as is the case in most of the tribal villages in the hills like, Tujang Lhang and Saitu Area of Sadar Hills.

Fortunately, with the worsening law and order situation, the use of high intensity loudspeakers are limited and 'Lenkhom' timing is gradually reduced from 12 hours non-stop to only few hours at night. Those devotionals, incessant drum beats and the helo! helo! were just simply traumatizing for the sick and the weak. A sleepless night in the aftermath is an after-affect that is generally neglected but at the cost of our precious health. We do hardly care for the non-Christians who grudgingly bear through without a word but certainly with a curse. What a mindless activity!

Peaceful and tranquil night is routinely shattered once a year with shouts of euphoria throughout the night on 'Bol-Bam' night, as devotees walked barefoot traversing from 'Theo-se', a point in the foothill of Mt. Kou-pu-lu, to Senapati and chanting (shouting) 'bol-bam' all the way along NH2. Some well-to-do, the idle who do not have the strength to drag on and older people, use vehicles of all sorts as some of them zoomed past with 'pe-pe' and 'po-po' much to the chagrin of residents all along the highway in the dead of the night. And the following morning you are greeted with wrappers, cans, water bottles, etc., strewn everywhere as if 'HudHud, Phailin or Mahasen' had passed-by while you were slumbering the night before! My humble appeal to the organizers' is to keep thresh bins at several points, the next time round.

Then come 'Dipawali' and the whole atmosphere reverberated with sounds of crackers and rocket bombs startling the unprepared and heart patients every now and then. The smoke too, is suffocating. Nose blockage due to the cold winter wind mixed with smokes and frequent loud bursts definitely drives everyone mad. You dare not resist or complain as it is one big celebration and young and old, all the more excitedly gazed the spectacular fire-works amidst the thundering noises around. Worst is the sight of inebriated locals freely mixing in celebration. Imagine the tons of decibels released and the possible magnitude of destruction it can cause.

Then, the 'Lai-haraoba' in early spring is a complete nonsense for students as it coincides simultaneously with their exams. We have deprived their peace and quiet time while they needed most. Chanting, singing and drum beat continue throughout the night for about a month at a stretch. While some students managed to struggle along, others slept through with the sound and fail the exam.

P.S. Verma and V.K. Agarwal quoted the definition of 'noise' as 'sound without value' which is primarily a feature of Cities. Bigger cities normally have bigger functions and thus bigger noises. This gradually has made an inroad into the lives of small settlements all over the world and that includes Manipur. While we comfortably use those devices to release valueless sounds with great pride, I started to wonder how life would have been during those days when Lord Jesus preached to hundreds of people in the mountains and, before. "Any invention to ease human activity is not appreciated, though a necessity. Mobile phones, entertainment, transport & communication, etc., are actually shortening our life", quipped a 'fuddy-duddy' septuagenarian. Sorry for drifting away.

It is given that a sound about 90 decibels (dBs) and above cause noise pollution. Therefore, when we observe closely to our utter foolishness in dumping 120 dBs or more (which is our loud music), nothing can be attributed to this irrational and un-mindful practices except 'complete madness' and is perfect sacrilege, upsetting the 'holy plan of nature'. Thus, we rendered ourselves unfit to share this beautifully crafted ecosystem with our neighbours.

Let us not fail to consider and understand the 'flip-side' at every celebration as the earth is the only place where we co-exist and may this co-existence, be truly mutual, beneficial, constructive and not detrimental at any cost. Let us also remember that plants and animals needed us so much as we need them together with the numerous a biotic factors.

I wrote this piece as we are in the 'festive season' of the year and, to revelers the imminent impact on other's lives as well as yours. Festivals are of course, one inseparable part of human lives, an entity. The point is not in complete abandonment but celebration up to that permissible level in obedience to the law of nature-minimized, modified and eco-friendly. Every one of us loves festivals and celebrations and we hardly afford to miss one. But do we seek quietness and peace at the same time? Please answer yourself. Any pragmatists' will answer while sceptics' might defer. But festival, thy name is still POLLUTION!


* Seikhojam Kipgen wrote this article for The Sangai Express
The writer can be reached at jam(dot)kipgen(at)gmail(dot)com
This article was posted on October 24 , 2014.


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