-Ibrahim Hafeezur Rehman
In our childhood we were generally celebrating Republic Day, Independence Day, etc., up until the fertile minds in this world started the process of manufacturing or converting each Day to cover some important element in life. Different social, political, commercial groups soon realised the magical effects and benefits of this talisman leading to a sudden deluge of all kinds of special ‘Days’ related to family, polity, environment, etc.
The most intelligent two legged creatures that inhabit the planet today, the politicians, realised the wide impact and mass mobilisation power of a focussed ‘Day’ based jamboree. For instance, in India taking the Day based celebrations to their heart and being convinced that they were the biggest gift of god to humanity some politicians started publicly celebrating their BirthDays on which they could be weighed in gold by the devout followers. Such ‘golden measures’ became a comparative benchmark of popularity, support and following of the politicians. Encouraged by such successes the politicians started giving huge importance to different special ‘Days’ based activities as a means of making their presence felt thus taking the ‘Day’ phenomenon to the next level.
The commercial fraternity seizing the opportunity foisted all kinds of ‘Days’ on us that covered a wide gamut of relations including father, mother, brother, sister, girl-friend and also the non-valentine friends. With the magical ‘Days’ came the flood of greeting cards and gifts which became a necessity otherwise you could be confronted with the tragedy of a girl friend walking out on you. Of course, desolate husbands who had for ages struggled to remember their ‘Wedding Day’ were now confronted with the complexity and anxiety of joining their children to wish wives on ‘Mother’s Day’; celebrate ‘Valentines Day’ or face the accusation of hiding a girl friend somewhere; tie the band on ‘Friendship Day’ or be formally declared an enemy.
The development community or the governments not to be left far behind in this holy mission of providing almost each day of the year with some honourable attribute came out with ‘Save Water Day’, ‘Save Energy Day’, ‘World Hand Washing Day’, and the mother of all the ‘Environment Day’. It was just a matter of one ‘Day’ that you could address or resolve all kinds of ills of development and environment by organising grandiose conferences and getting wise ones of the “development sector brotherhood” to mumble the right words and oaths in a high level panel discussion.
In principle there is nothing wrong in earmarking one day of the year for a noble cause or for a relation with the broad purpose of emphasising or drawing attention to specific issues of concern or relationships. However, the problem with all such practices religious or social is that they tend to become just a ritual often losing both their essence and spirit. Hence, we have Father’s and Mother’s Day on which we buy expensive cards and gifts to give to parents but the continually increasing stories of neglect and loneliness of elderly convey a different story. Similarly we switch off lights on ‘Save Energy Day’ or talk about banning plastics on ‘Environment Day’ but the apathy to environment at both individual and collectively levels is grossly evident and rising. To compound matters the mere concept of buying all those cards and unnecessary gifts plays havoc on environment in terms of uprooting millions of trees for paper and promoting useless depletion of resources in the form of gifts. In such endeavours the beneficiaries more than the parents, siblings or environment are commercial enterprises who create a hype around these ‘Days’ to promote their businesses or agendas.
It may be more useful if instead of focussing for just one ‘Day’ on a major concern or relationship we could at least devote a month to it, parallelly establishing an ideal code of conduct pertaining to that cause or relation. Such an approach will help us to practice what we might be trying to preach or communicate to one another. For instance, if the cause is environment and we have behavioural benchmarks for our conduct with regard to usage of resources such as energy or water and adopt or inculcate that code or behaviour for a month it may actually lead to something significant and visible at both individual and collective levels. At the end of the month we can then have a celebration and then resolve to diligently follow the same practice or code for next 11 months. Therefore, instead of just celebrating specific days we should make a longer term effort for some positive visible change and put into operation the saying of Mahatma Gandhi, “Be the change that you want to see in the world”.