A brighter Diwali!

(Earlier posted as ‘A brighter festival of lights’ on August 05, 2013 and on November 02, 2013 (Diwali). Re-posted on the request of a few friends who wanted this post to be a Diwali tradition!)

“How much will we be spending on fireworks this Diwali?” my 12 years old son asked me one evening over a decade back. “Last year, we got all that you wanted for about Rs. 1000. I suppose we’ll spend about Rs. 1,500 this year since prices would have increased, plus there will be some new fancy stuff that you guys will want. Anyway, why are you asking this now? Diwali’s over a month away,” I replied.

He explained that there had been a lot of discussion in school about the exploitation of child labour in the fireworks industry, as a result of which many students had decided to boycott fireworks as a mark of protest. He and his 9 years old brother had both decided to join the boycott. No, they did not want to buy anything for themselves instead of fireworks. They felt that would not be a genuine boycott. Instead, they wanted the ‘fireworks money’ to be donated to an orphanage near our house.

Both my spouse and I were delighted! At the same time, we wanted to be sure that our sons were not committing themselves to something that they would regret later when their high spirits had cooled down. After all, they were just 12 and 9 years old! We asked them a few questions to find out if they were fully aware of the implications of their decision.

Both brothers had discussed the matter threadbare before speaking with us. They had decided that, not only would they not buy fireworks, they would not join any Diwali celebrations involving fireworks. They planned to continue this boycott for subsequent years until they were completely convinced that exploitation of children in the fireworks industry had totally and genuinely stopped. They were not sure whether their friends were equally firm in their resolve to boycott fireworks, but for them there was no going back.

That year, we celebrated Diwali without any fireworks. We donated the ‘fireworks money’ to the orphanage. It was clear from the reduced sound levels that many other children had joined the boycott.

The next year, most children withdrew the boycott of fireworks, stating that they were buying fireworks manufactured by companies that did not use child labour. However, our sons continued their boycott because it was reported that, while some manufacturers had stopped employing children directly, their sub-contractors continued to exploit child labour. Our donation to the orphanage was suitably increased to match the expected increase in fireworks prices.

Our sons were aware that their continued boycott of fireworks invited disparaging comments from some of their peers, but they never went back on their decision. We continue to make a donation to the orphanage every Diwali, with the amount suitably increased every year.

Our sons’ compassion (towards the child labourers and the orphans) and integrity (in refusing to use the ‘fireworks money’ for themselves) enhanced the brightness of our Diwali, the ‘festival of lights’!

6 thoughts on “A brighter Diwali!

  1. I for one will never tire of reading this, year after year. I say ‘Happy Diwali’ from my heart to one and all, because the essence of Diwali hits me when I read this. The message of this act by the young boys can surely be taken by all of us ‘mature’ adults and applied to so many of our actions in our daily lives.

  2. So nice! I think the children are able to stick to their decision more because it was ‘their’ decision, than forced upon them. You n ur wife did a good job raising them, Pro!

  3. This was a really inspiring read. My sons have not completely done away with bursting crackers but they have brought it down to bare minimum. My younger son is fascinated with crackers but is very upset that children are being employed. He asked me why those who employ children can’t be put in jails? I really had no answer.

  4. This is so nice to read, definitely appreciate your kids.. even though we don’t celebrate diwali, my daughter loves to burst crackers…. Every year my husband used to take her and get her what she wants, and the bill will be from 800 – 1000 rupees. This year she is in class eight, and also part of committee that is involved in activities to protect environment…. she loves to play with other kids in the apartments and join them for bursting crackers… she was finding difficult to make a decision to give up totally, so she asked for 500 rupees this year to buy crackers, I accompanied her and to my surprise, she spent only 200 rupees, and the rest of the money she saved… I was happy that she was getting choosy and also limiting her self…. i am hoping that slowly she will give up with understanding, and use the money for a good cause …

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