Two groups have emerged whose views widely differ as to whether the festival of lights should be celebrated with fire crackers which light up the night sky or the ones whose explosion sends gentle sleep scurrying from the eyes of those who have gone to bed after a hard day’s work. Those rooting for the fire crackers whose going off threatens the safety of the ear drums seem to have the dice loaded heavily against them.

Given the norms of the permitted sound level for the Kali Puja set by pollution control board and watched with vigilance by the men in uniform, the fire crackers whose explosion threatens to go beyond the permitted sound level seem to find less favour among the would be clientele. In other words, such fire crackers are not openly sold in the market in the backdrop of the official frown.

On the one hand, there was a sense of disappointment for thousands who used to throng the stalls that offered a staggering variety of fireworks from the universally popular phuljhuri and rangmashal to the more innovative items that kept children on their toes till late into the night. But environmentalists and home-bound people who had to contend with occasional excesses had other ideas that prompted the administration to step in. Yet for all their vigilance the night of the festival of lights the sound of high decibel explosions are heard from time to time. It seems that those advocating the Thursday night should be essentially a festival of lights have won the day.

Celebrating their triumph, there will be more illuminations in the run up to the worship of the goddess who slays the forces of darkness. Perhaps there will be more illuminations than Durga puja which set the tune for the festive season. If there were a explosion of themes during the biggest festival of the state, the Kali puja has a different flavour with a tradition that dates back to the days when balloons were seen in the night sky even as rockets were fired and a variety of fireworks produced a thrill that extended to everyone in the family. But regardless of the new developments, there are memories that remain alive.

Kali Puja is celebrated in many homes to the accompaniment of shyamasangeet that carries the spirit of worship and results in warm reunions. At another level, Kali Puja is witness to boisterous sessions of all forms of music that had created the attraction of the roadside jalsa. But there was nothing to stop the entertainment in drawing rooms that often erupts into embarrassing excesses with the generous flow of liquid stimulants.

Kali Puja and Diwali which follows are all about entertainment that brings a glorious cocktail of fireworks, food and fun that one looks forward to year after year. Friends and relatives indulge in the ritual of exchanging gifts or sending over boxes of mouthwatering sweets.

Others have more boisterous ways of celebrating the occasion. But in the end, it is all about keeping hopes alive even in the most difficult situations. That is the spirit which is reflected in the rows of earthen lamps that light up balconies. Even a candle is a good enough sign that makes the celebration meaningful.