Diwali – The festival of sleeplessness

Like every year, this year too, people sent over-emotional, dripped in saccharine messages, that how Diwali is the festival of lights and how it should be noise-free, pollution-free celebration. But to all the fire-crackers-buying population, the meaning is lost. Either they choose to ignore the message or they simply misread ‘lights’ as ‘noise’ EVERY.YEAR. To make things even worse, this year Diwali was over the weekend.

Whoever came up with the concept of windows in houses, I am indebted to that person for life. And more so, whoever invented soundproof windows can have half my inheritance. We live in a very densely residential area in South Mumbai where the decibel levels rise exponentially year-on-year. When Diwali comes, our area is nothing less than a war zone. In fact if a war does break out during Diwali we would never be able to tell the difference.

This year we were particularly worried because of our newborn, who is just 10 weeks old, and all our focus and attention went into shielding her from the noise. Getting her to sleep in this cacophony was not a good experience.

Our daughter, Ziya, usually retires for the night by around 9.30pm only waking up during the night for her mandatory feeds but last night was a different story. Though we thought we were prepared for it, we clearly won’t. On usual days Ziya can sleep through her regular dose of white noise (traffic, people chatting, etc), a loud sound would startle and shake her up but she would immediately go back to sleep but last night was explosively disastrous.

It all started round 6.30pm when she was napping. All our doors and windows were shut tight in order to keep the room as sound proof as possible, but it didn’t work. When the ear-shattering bombs go off, it’s not just the immediate blast that startles you but the lingering sound that echoes in the entire neighbourhood that really gets you. Obviously Ziya woke up but this time she stayed up because the frequency of the bombs, rockets, laris going off were so regular that there was no window of peace and silence for her to revert to sleeping. Now she was crying, a lot.

My wife fed her and she looked fine, happily staring at us and flailing her limbs about. But every time a bomb or a rocket went off she would shake. It would seem that her Moro had kicked in but this was pure shock from the unnatural noise that she was subjected to. She clearly was uncomfortable even though she wasn’t crying. But eventually the noise was getting too much for her and she wouldn’t take it lying down. I picked her up and started walking with her, as this always worked to clam her down. Every time I thought she was okay enough to be put down she would only wail. This went on for a couple of hours, that’s right we had to keep her on us (my wife and I took turns) throughout this period.

Our backs and arms started to give way, I finally wore the baby wrap (body carrier) and had to carry her so that my arms were free to do other work. At one point the noise go so bad that I had to lock myself in our closet for extra sound proofing. She started to drift around 9.30pm, her usual sleep time but the fire crackers just would stop. She kept waking up, we were so helpless, how do you put a 10 week old to sleep in this sheer mindless noise fest?! We couldn’t even massage or bathe her because she refused to stay down. I have no recollection of even eating dinner last night, that’s how bad it got.

At 11.30pm the noise started to subside and I guess our daughter fell asleep simply because she was just too tired to keep her eyes open. Now came the tough part, We needed to catch some shut eye before Ziya woke up again for whatever reasons. My wife stuffed her face in the pillow and forced herself to sleep, I managed to sleep only at 1.30am and was rudely woken up around 5.00am thanks to another round of bombardment because, you know, why not.

Diwali might be a great time of the year to celebrate and enjoy but no matter how many appeals you make on social media, traditional media or even through government agencies, cracker-bursting population have zero compassion for other people around them!

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