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It’s Diwali! My favorite festival out of all the many celebrations that we Indians have through the year.
But Diwali nowadays is different from even just five years ago. I wrote last year about how there was a ban on lighting firecrackers (an integral part of Diwali celebrations) in the National Capital Region (NCR) due to the city's dangerously high pollution levels. This is a huge change from the recent past, when the lighting of firecrackers would start a few days before Diwali, usually by enthusiastic youngsters from as early as 6am, and carry of for a week after.
This year too, the Supreme Court has cracked down on crackers (sorry - couldn't resist!) in NCR. Interestingly, according to reports the petition was filed on behalf of three children who claimed that the crackers were affecting their health. The Supreme Court verdict says that only “green crackers” are to be lit and that too only for two hours in the day. Green crackers are less polluting, have reduced emission levels and are supposed to absorb dust. One of the formulations of green crackers can even produce water molecules, which suppress and significantly reduce hazardous particulate matter. However, according to an article in Livemint published yesterday, "Developed by the National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI) of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) in collaboration with eight other government laboratories, the ‘green crackers’, as the name suggests, are not completely eco-friendly." They only reduce emissions by 30%. And here's the rub - they are not even available yet! They are still in R&D phase and reports as to when they will hit the market vary widely.
While these strictures by the Government and Courts are important, schools, the media and resident welfare associations across cities have been doing their bit to proactively spreading the message of reducing air and noise pollution caused by Diwali crackers. Even children are becoming more conscious of the environment and are clamoring less for crackers. As a result, I can’t find a single tent selling any type of crackers in a five-kilometer radius of my house! Earlier there used to be one at regular intervals.
Food, especially sweet things, is inextricably linked with celebrations around the world. During Diwali, we exchange sweets (called “mithai” in Hindi) and dry fruits with family, friends and neighbors in a gesture of love and goodwill. During my grandparents’ time these sweets used to be made at home, but considering how laborious they are to make, now we just buy or order them from specialized mithai shops – the mithai-walas.
Sweets are easily bought, but cooking vast meals is another matter. With friends and family dropping in through the day, a lot of time is spent in the kitchen – especially since special Indian meals often consist of many complex dishes. But not to worry - here too technology is coming to the rescue! A Bangalore-based company has come up with a cooking or chef bot, built in the mode of a smart kitchen appliance, which can cook the meals in 20 minutes completely unaided. The recipes can be pre-programmed into the bot and after loading the required ingredients, the bot functions independently.
Another startup has built what could be the closest to a robotic chef that can cook inside the home. The company has built a wooden prototype about the size of a large gas hob with a rotating drum filled with spice canisters, three induction plates, and little robotic protrusions that wield spatulas and volumetric cups. This machine can prepare around 30 vegetarian dishes with minimal human intervention simultaneously in about 40 minutes.
While this sounds interesting, I am not going to be running out to buy a cooking bot just yet. Right now I am focused on finding the cracker tent before today's designated two hour window!
From all of us at Cadence India, wish you all a very happy and safe Diwali!
(Photos courtesy Peter Patel from Pexels and Creative Commons)