Cracker of a Time

The festival of lights is coming, and there is no better time to turn our attention to Deepavali Crackers (called Fireworks elsewhere in the world). Ever since my youngest brother was advised by a left-wing, liberal, animal-loving, vegan, peace-loving, earth-loving (and other standard stereotypes) kindergarten teacher not to buy crackers during Deepavali because young children who ought to be going to school are forced to work under dangerous conditions in Sivakasi to make them, the interest in fireworks has generally waned over the years.

But now that all boxes from Sivakasi carry the “Made without Child Labour” label, everything is hunky-dory and the fireworks are slowly making their way back into the household.

Sivakasi is becoming increasingly marketing-savvy and this year, this packet arrived (for Rs. 350)

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Wow. Home delivery. While I did, for just a moment, assume that this packet came from Saravana Stores Antique Jeweller, the multi-coloured flower-pot on the right settled the matter. So it was time to open the box and check out the goodies. But before I did so, I noticed this on the side. The good corporate citizens of Sivakasi had included an informative visual on the right ways to use Deepavali crackers.

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But I was very disappointed that they chose to ignore the following life-saving instructions.

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and they totally missed out the all-important

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Anyway, I urge all of you to pass these instructions on to kids in your neighbourhood.

So, let’s get to the good stuff inside. While crackers were always fun, I have also enjoyed, over the years, the artwork on the boxes. From the hand-painted masterpieces of the 80s that gave way to the gaudy Photoshopped images of the 90s, Sivakasi has always been some sort of a zeitgeist of the times. For instance, let me show you some of the innovative box art-work this year.

1. 100 Wala

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The AK-47 of Deepavali fireworks is the 100-wala, with its machine-gun like burst of sound. This Sara-vedi comes in several sizes. In Chennai, the formula is

N-Wala, where N has the following values

100 – Middle Class

500 – Upper Middle Class, with son/daughter as NRI

1000 – Small businessman who has had a good year

5000 – Local Saettu

10,000 – Local MLA

Wonder what the Nicole Kidman/Jack Black motif means though. Perhaps an oblique comparison to the “loudness” of rock music tempered with Nicole suggesting that all of us should obey the local government’s 6 am to 10 pm rule for bursting crackers? No idea.

2. Bijli (Loose)

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Perhaps an oblique reference to that fact that Walt Disney uses child labour/sweat shops (in SE Asia) too?

3. Twinkling Stars

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Perhaps a reference to the fact that Twikling stars (and sparklers and flower pots) are considered to be girlie crackers, and thus the Bipasha and cowboy-baby references. Back in the 80s, we used this rule – If it does not make a loud explosive sound or spray fire in dangerously random directions, it’s for girls.

4. Bollywood mein Chakkar

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Preity and Bobby are having a chakkar. A special chakkar. Get it? Get it? He he.

5. For Boys only.

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These things are nastily loud. And they can be used to break wooden post-boxes (I have done this successfully as a 10 year old). And I love the company name. It starts off so softly and sweetly – Bala Saroja and then suddenly takes on violent, Rammsteinesque tones – Pyrotechs.

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The guy on the cover scared the camera so badly that it shook while taking the snap. Seriously.

6. Completely lame fireworks.

I never understood the point of these things. Till I was told that their smoke used to keep mosquitoes away. In the past, i.e. Modern mosquitoes have evolved to wear gas-masks.

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Apart from all of these, there were the other usual suspects – Flower pots, Lakshmi vedis, Kuruvi vedis and Rockets.

Anyway, have a safe Deepavali. I mean, if you wish to launch rockets horizontally on the road, do check to see if there are any petroleum tankers coming down the road. If you wish to hold flower-pots in your hand and wave them around as they burn, use kevlar gloves. If you wish to break neighbours post-boxes, use 2 atom bombs tied together, but do not stand in the direction of the door. Wood shrapnel is likely to fly in your direction at dangerous velocities.