Our celebratory hell

For as long as I can remember, we have been told that there is inherent merit in India's culture of festivals. That the fact that we have so many festivals shows that we have a natural defence against sorrow and despair.

I have written in the past about how the doctrine of Karma often acts as a way for us to be willfully blind to the suffering of others and to social injustices. This happens because whenever we see someone suffer, we have a religious / theological explanation for it - it's their own fault. They brought it upon themselves by their own past actions. This not only gives religious sanction to apathy in the minds of many, it also helps us justify inaction on our own part. How can we help someone who doesn't want to help themselves? See how that works?

But the thing about dancing in joy, oblivious to what goes around you, is that it leaves you vulnerable falsehoods. You spend so much time in a celebratory reality full of joy and happiness and motivation that you don't perceive what is truly dangerous. Celebrations are what mark the important moments of life, but if we allow celebration to turn into an addiction, it can prevent us from seeing the debilitating influences that plague our lives.

Many urban workers blind themselves to the exploitative toxicity of their lives with the help of weekend parties and Friday night drinking. Many do drugs to cope with the unchanging drabness of their everyday reality. All of it is an escape and though I am not denying the need for an escape, it would be wrong to not point out that such celebratory behaviour is also a blinding influence.

Most recently, our government, whose job it is to make sure the spread of the COVID pandemic is limited and that vaccines are made available to everyone in the country, has taken to couching its conduct in celebratory language. Yesterday, it was Tika Utsav. Last year, it was banging of pots and pans to celebrate health workers. Some time in the middle of it all, helicopters were showering flower petals on doctors (who by the way, have sat on strikes to demand better facilities). Dancing in joy and celebrating is well and fine. In fact, it is a very human need. But when the falling confetti hinders our view of what is truly important, the air needs to be cleared.

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