It was Yamuna shining on screens across the world, resplendent with dance and music forms from a variety of cultures. A bout of rain did not dampen the festive spirit. After all, it was playing host to the World Culture Festival, in which, unfortunately, a sister concern of the Art of Living (AOL) Foundation was involved in a war with the National Green Tribunal (NGT).
As is known, at the last minute, a settlement was arrived at with the AOL agreeing to pay Rs 25 lakh of the Rs 5 crore fine (now called eco-conservation fee or such) before the pre-event deadline set by NGT, and the remaining post.
It turned out to be a show of strength by the AOL, attracting guests including the prime minister of the country, several senior leaders, and even senior leaders of a few others. It was a moment of pride for India as a cultural leader.
Yet, there was genuine concern for the environmental damage caused by the creation of infrastructure on the Yamuna and the conduct of the festival there. There are other festivities that have been questioned, too.
There is a segment of Indians who believe that we should not stop celebratory fireworks during Diwali, given its traditional significance. After all, it is the festival of lights.
If one may risk offering a solution, as far-fetched and utopian as it may seem, it is the simplest one: make people sow as much as they reap.
The flower pots that add colour to the festive nights should not be missing, but they must not be the reason for the 10-year-old to suffer injury burns in a Sivakasi factory. The buyers can, given the right plans being in place, ensure funding and support for the child’s education, while also chipping in for the environment.
In that light, whatever the NGT suggested must be respected. It is commendable that Sri Sri Ravishankar of AOL, who initially seemed to lack good judgment in the matter, came around.
Culture need not always confront though, as Ogilvy & Mather showed with a wonderful idea.
It created eco-friendly Ganesha idols made with what becomes food for the fish, once the idols are immersed. This was for NGO Sprouts Environment Trust last September. The campaign has already won Gold at the IAA Olive Crowns. It will hopefully make the world look up at Indian creatives this year, and with it, also give them a glimpse of the grandeur and fervour around Ganesh Chaturti.
We hope someone comes up with fireworks that do more good than harm to the environment and humans.
And selfishly, also that the spark for such innovation will come from Indian adland.
(This editorial appears in the issue of Campaign India dated 18 March 2016.)