Take a look at the photograph above.
It is one of the prime roads in a city, all geared up to celebrate one of the biggest festivals of the country. Guess which one? Did you say Diwali? Sorry – you’re just so out-of-sync with the times, you know! This is Bengaluru, ringing in the season of festive cheer, spreading the message of love and goodwill to all.
Come Christmas, the commercial parts of the city look so nice with the warm, inviting glow of all the lights and decorations. Enter any mall, and the red, green and white décor will make you feel you’re in some city in the US. People of all ages are busy clicking the customary selfie with the Christmas tree and its shimmering lights.
Reality is not so innocent, actually…
Remember the environment?
First, the Christmas tree - a big problem for a tropical country like ours.
In colder countries, Christmas trees are grown in farms. And although nothing justifies cutting down millions of trees every year, at least they grow three times as many as they cut off. India doesn't do that.
Besides, the trees are transported over enormous distances. Which means burning up a lot of fuel. After the festival, the trees end up in landfills or are burnt as fuel, emitting huge amounts of carbon and particulates in the process, damaging the environment.
So, you want to boycott China?
Some people use artificial trees instead of the real ones. But that’s actually worse! These trees and most Christmas decorations are made in and imported all the way from China. By using these, you are actually helping the Chinese economy and maybe funding a little bit of cross-border terrorism too.
The environmental impact of artificial trees is so huge that they are only justifiable if one keeps them for 20 years (the lowest estimate, if the tree is made from recycled everything, is 6 years). Yes, 20 years! Space in our malls and homes is always at a premium, so storing the Christmas tree is not really high on our list of priorities.
Be considerate of pets, will ya?
The glittery buntings used as decorations – do you know they fall apart into small pieces? When dogs, and birds and cows ingest these, it leads to very painful deaths for them. Almost all decorations are non-biodegradable and they can clog up the drains, rivers and hillsides.
Watching fireworks is so cool!
Fireworks to celebrate Christmas and ring in the New Year are a pleasure to watch. The only problem is that this time of the year is deep winter with the attendant daily fogs. So any particulates that we throw into the air just stay there and get into our lungs causing allergies and infections.
It's also a lot worse for dogs, too, who are right in the middle of their mating season (December-January). Loud noises now, when they are already high on hormones, would result in a lot more stress for them and consequently, everyone else in the ecosystem.
Fire hazards, anyone?
Being a tropical country, we’re not lucky enough to have real snow. But then, what’s technology for if not to make up for such misses? We have artificial snow that feels just like the real thing. But, do you realize that this “snow” is either a highly inflammable aerosol spray or is made of thermocol and other plastics? Either way, Christmas decorations increase the fire hazards in public places by huge factors - another disaster just waiting to happen.
Eat, drink and make merry, for who knows tomorrow?
The culture that surrounds the festival in India is also completely borrowed and misunderstood. For the majority, who don't celebrate it for religious reasons, it is an excuse for weeks of gluttony and alcoholism. There is a significant spike in the number of accidents in December and anyone from the big Indian cities will tell you horror stories of drunken driving if one is on the road on Christmas Eve and Christmas day.
With bright lights, snazzy music and discount offers, stores go all out to woo customers. Many multinational corporates encourage buying presents – even if it’s some insignificant bauble for some you don’t even know well. The stress associated with such gift buying and the debt that invariably follows, is a very big concern in the western world. Is it something we should be encouraging here?
Religion driving consumerism…hmm.. Wonder what Jesus would have to say….