Are we misinterpreting the essence of Diwali?

Diwali has several origin theories, some rooted in the Ramayana and others in the Mahabharata. But our favourite is the one about Lord Krishna killing the demon king Narakasura. It turns out that after terrorising the populace and challenging Krishna to a duel, the king more than met his match in the young man with the Sudarshan Chakra. It was an ‘Off with his head!’ situation with the Chakra that annihilated Narakasura, and legend has it that once the king was killed, the dark skies enveloping his kingdom disappeared and clear sunlight streamed in.

This also explains why we mark Diwali as the festival of lights. Even today, the festival is observed all over the country with ceremonial lighting of lamps and diyas. But what’s with the crackers?

There’s another story that features Lord Rama and the genesis of Diwali. It turns out that after he defeated Lord Ravan and brought back his consort Sita to Ayodhya, the kingdom welcomed his arrival with conch shells, trumpets, drums and dholaks. Must have been a tremendous cacophony, but we bet it was sweet music compared to the racket we modern humans have been making with firecrackers. Ours is a modern-day interpretation of the ‘Let’s welcome the triumphant King!’ jamboree – but we are taking it to unprecedented levels of pollution that is harming the ecology and the living creatures in it.

Sample this: as per records from the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB) for Diwali 2015, the highest decibel levels hovered at 90dB (humans can take up to 35db, animals about a half of that) and the levels of particulate matter in the air shot up to 116 microgrammes per cubic metres, where the permissible levels are pegged at 60. So not only is Diwali a hugely disturbing affair with loud bangs and whistles, it is also a major pollutant that causes respiratory distress, heart attacks and migraines, among other health issues.

Just imagine the havoc this noise and air pollution wreaks on pregnant women, senior citizens and children, and animals and birds all over the country! We are so sensitive about viruses spread by mosquitoes, the garbage left unpicked by the civic authorities, the lack of infrastructure…but when will we ponder over this horrendous pollution that we are causing in the name of celebration?

And that’s just the wreckage we can see: another hidden evil is the employment of child labour in the country’s fireworks industry. Nobel Laureate Kailash Satyarthi contends that the fireworks industry in Sivakasi, Tamil Nadu, employs about one lakh child labourers annually! Though this figure was hotly contested by the authorities, it is true that children as young as five years old are employed in firework factories for meagre pay, unsanitary working conditions and lack of safety gear. Many of them develop respiratory disorders and skin infections due to their exposure to gun powder, while older children get caught in a web of substance abuse and alcoholism.

A report filed by the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights in 2013, many children working in these factories suffer from mental disorders as well. The lack of safety norms has also resulted in about 250 deaths annually, and many of these are children.

Time to go back to a simpler, quieter, more dignified Diwali celebration, don’t you think?

This story will tell you why Kundalini Yoga is amazing

How Priyamvada turned her life around with Kundalini Yoga and got her groove back.

MeditationLife was all hunky dory for Priyamvada Shankar*, a working media professional in Mumbai with a new marriage and a great new apartment. “I had married my college sweetheart – against my parents’ wishes – but we were so happy together. But after about six months of the wedding, things started to unravel,” she remembers.

Her husband, Raghu, was into substance abuse and alcohol, and this was why her parents had been against the match from the start. “But he tried many times to give it up, he enrolled in rehab. In the end, though, the addictions would always get him,” she explains. Soon, the couple was fighting non-stop. Raghu lost his job, and suddenly, Priyamvada was left making payments for the house and had no money. “I suffered depression without even knowing about it,” she says. “And then one day, out of sheer desperation, I downed an entire bottle of his whisky. I was severely hungover the next day, but I had finally found the one thing that would help me forget my troubles.”

Soon, she became a raging alcoholic. She left Raghu and started staying with a cousin – which turned out to be the best decision.

Learning about Kundalini


Her cousin, Revathi, was a Kundalini yoga practitioner who often had students come over to her terrace for classes. “I thought it was complete bunkum – they would all sit there with their eyes closed, chanting all sorts of incomprehensible things, then meditating and making weird breathing sounds,” Priyamvada laughs. “But I also noted how all the people who came for the class, and especially my cousin, were all so centred and self-assured. I used to be like that…”

One morning, her cousin invited her to sit in one of the classes. “I sat opposite her and with five others, the class started. It was 90 minutes of the most transformational time of my life. It wasn’t like anything I had experienced before – I just went with the flow, followed the chants, meditated as instructed, breathed in and out like the others. Some deep weight lifted from my soul. I felt cleansed and energised. I hadn’t felt this way in years,” she smiles.

The next class was two days away, and Priyamvada was the first one to attend. “I told Revathi to teach me everything, help me get back the peace I had lost in the chaos of my wrong decisions. From then on, I practiced Kundalini every single day. In just a month, I felt totally transformed. Not once did I feel the need to drink a single drop of alcohol,” she says.

She has now been practicing Kundalini yoga for three years, and she says she feels like a completely different person. “Not only did I get my health and self-awareness back, but I was also able to let go of a lot of negativity inside me. I have now finally found the strength to forgive Raghu and I empathise with how terrified he must have been in his addiction. Someday I might ask him to find himself through Kundalini yoga, like I did. But for now, I have got my inner peace and stability back. I feel completely empowered and in charge of my destiny,” she signs off.

*Characters in this article are fictional and used for illustrative purposes.

What causes arthritis in the feet?

Your feet are in danger of developing serious pains and deformities – and arthritis is the cause.

Let’s issue a disclaimer at the very beginning: those with a genetic history of arthritis need to take care of their feet starting today.

Your feet are the hardest working part of your body. They carry your weight, they balance you and help you walk and even squeeze themselves into uncomfortable shoes. And while other parts of the body receive a lot of care, the feet must develop pain or inflammation to get their owner’s attention!

Do you have arthritic foot pain?

Lately, cases of arthritic foot pain are increasing among people – characterised by stiffness in the toes or ankle joint – though it was previously considered an old person’s condition. It is caused by a reduction in the cartilage that surrounds the bone joints in the feet and ankle, thus making movement painful. This might happen with overuse or have a genetic cause.

It often starts with inflamed joints of the feet and ankles. The condition is often moderately to severely painful. If it is allowed to fester, it can restrict mobility to a large extent.

Unfortunately, there is no cure for it. Only a few therapeutic methods such as regular oil massage, moderate walking and regular stretching may alleviate the pain. Your doctor can even prescribe a course of treatment involving pain killers and physical therapy to reduce the pain.

The types of arthritic foot pain

Osteoarthritis: This is a common problem that is often colloquially referred to as the ‘wear and tear’ foot pain. It happens when the cartilage in the bone joints gradually wears away, thus causing a painful friction between the bones with every movement. Obesity, poor nutrition and genetics can cause osteoarthritis.

Rheumatoid Arthritis: This is a progressive degenerative bone disorder that often begins with the feet and ankles. It is an autoimmune disease in which the membranes covering the joint swell up and soon, the bones and cartilage degenerate. This condition often causes deformity and visible joint swelling.

Post injury Arthritis: As the name suggests, this form of arthritis develops after a foot or ankle injury has not properly healed. The injury could be from a dislocation or fracture or even a serious twist. It does not reveal itself for years after the injury has occurred; meanwhile, the cartilage between joints begins to waste away gradually.