The end of anything is supposed to cause gloom. But the end of a year magically produces rejoicing everywhere. Is this because one year’s death is another year’s birth? And because a new year always means new hopes? It’s rather like the sentiment behind the saying, “ The King is dead, long live the King”.
But royal successions have not been commercialised as cynically as our festivals have been. Every celebration today, religious or social, is an occasion for high-pitched marketing frenzy. Look at Diwali, for example. It’s one of our most beautiful festivals whether you see it as a harvest festival or as a religious one signifying Rama’s return to Ayodhya or Lakshmi’s emergence during the churning of the ocean. Today the lovely act of lighting diyas is a minor formality. The big focus is on “Diwali Special Sale” in shops, gifting of expensive dry fruits and sweets hampers, and of course the bursting of fire-crackers, the more deafening the better. Families spending ten lakhs rupees on an hour of fireworks are common.