My Dying Dad Loves Patakhas on Diwali, But Can I Risk Pollution?

Health News
4 min read

I don't want a green Deepawali. Yet, I want a reduction in air pollution. I am conflicted and am finding it hard to choose a side.

I truly, truly believe, and have advocated for, more stringent controls to improve the quality of air.

I have to weigh the destruction of the environment, with wanting to give my father – my dying father – something that will bring back pleasant memories. Pleasant memories that, I hope, have the strength to sweep the Dementia fog away. It's all the more important now that he has just returned from hospital.


Anna was discharged from hospital on 2 October. He had a severe bronchial infection, that  galloped from a slight fever to a compromised lung and wheezing in just 24 hours. It was so bad that I could hear him struggling to breathe from the front door. Thankfully, he spent only 8 days in hospital, all but 1 day, zoned out and unresponsive. He's back home now, 5 kg less, stiff as a board, not eating much, and speaking about 10 cogent words in a day.

I tell Anna that we can take him home from hospital on 1 October 2017. He is pleased.
(Photo Courtesy: Sangeeta Murthi Sahgal)

Each illness sets Anna back so much that I wonder whether he will ever recover and be his old self... whatever that old self is. For he is no longer the vibrant, laughing man he was, before Parkinson's and Dementia kidnapped him in front of our eyes.

Now, when Anna responds to me, I feel good. Though 10 softly spoken words are not much, it's better than nothing. I think he is looking sad, but he hasn't said anything. What worries me is that he wants to say something but can't. It's terrible. Just imagining it, frightens me. It can only be worse, much worse, for Anna.

I decide to pep Anna up by telling him that Deepawali is around the corner. Deepawali has a special place in Anna's heart.

First, because of the lights. For days before Deepawali, we wheel Anna around the colony so that he can look at all the houses, bedecked with strings of lights – straight lights, dancing lights, bling lights, reflecting globes, strobe lights. Each house uniquely lit up and wanting to show off a part of their owners' soul.

The second reason Anna loves Deepawali is because of the simple, childlike excitement of lighting crackers. Last year, like a little boy, Anna asked me twice a day, every day, for a month, when Deepawali was! He told me about how he and his brother made firecrackers in their childhood. This year, there are going to be no stories. There are going to be little or no crackers given the Supreme Court's ban on the sale of crackers in Delhi.

Anna in happier times.
(Photo Courtesy: Sangeeta Murthi Sahgal)

I know we want to reduce the amount of pollution that will blanket the city. The pollution that will make our eyes water and throats dry. A living pollution that is killing us, inside out.

But, Anna has a few pleasures in life and a few years to live. Maybe just a year. Is it really so bad for me to want to light 6 sparklers, 4 chakras and 4 flower pots to cheer him up? I have crackers left over from last year, and lighting them, I know, will add a soupçon of pollution.

I really want to burn crackers for Anna.

But can I, in good conscience, given our air pollution problem?

Should I?

Will I?


(After working in corporate India for over 29 years, Sangeeta has taken time off to look after her father, who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease in 2008. Sangeeta hopes that these authentic stories will help patients and caregivers understand and appreciate the impact of Parkinson’s Disease. You can follow Sangeeta’s blog here.)


(Breathe In, Breathe Out: Are you finding it tough to breathe polluted air? Join hands with FIT in partnership with #MyRightToBreathe to find a solution to pollution. Send in your suggestions to or WhatsApp @ +919999008335)

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