It’s called PDS. Not the Public Distribution System that is meant to feed the have-nots, but the Post Diwali Syndrome that afflicts the haves. In India, we have more festivals than there are days in the year, but Diwali is really when indulgence violates the urban ceiling act. That is, till the bills come and PDS sets in. Here’s how you can recognise the symptoms of PDS.
Newspapers: Things are back to normal, with the regular-sized daily in your hand as opposed to the obscenely bloated versions that land with a loud thud outside your door in the days leading up to Diwali. National newspapers become unrecognisable because of the radical jump in advertisements, making it difficult to decipher where the front page begins, or whether Samsung or Haldiram have somehow made national headlines. The real news could begin on Page 10! That’s not to mention the shower of leaflets that drown you the moment the paper is opened. The medium as the message is a heavy load to bear.
Air quality: Also shows a dramatic increase, pollution levels that is, thanks to the millions of firecrackers which only increase each year, unaffected by minor issues like an economic crisis, inflation or austerity measures. Some say it’s a Chinese conspiracy to flood the Indian market with cheap firecrackers so Beijing is no longer the most-polluted capital on the planet. Pollution experts, always in great demand for sulfurous TV debates post Diwali, will fume and fret and predict our collective descent into the valley of fear, reminding us of the TV debates about Deepika Padukone’s cleavage.
Black money: The black smoke we see receding in the distance is highly symbolic of the colour of the money spent on Diwali all going up in smoke. We can all salivate over the names of Swiss bank account holders, promised to us by successive governments and Baba Ramdev, but there’s no time like Diwali to see whether the Indian government’s white paper on black money has any currency.
Swachh Bharat: The Prime Minister has pledged to remove the dirt in public life, and it’s never needed more than post Diwali when the public makes the roads look like a war zone in Iraq or Syria. The warmongers refer to it as collateral damage, something Shashi Tharoor will testify to, but collecting the collateral is a mammoth task, requiring all hands to the broom, and not just members of AAP, who are busy posting photographs of garbage like a bunch of drain inspectors instead of putting their party symbol to some use.
Spirit of generosity: It has a historical association with Diwali and leads to rivals embracing and ministering to each other. Nothing symbolises this more than Nitin Gadkari and Devendra Fadnavis, and their PDS (Public Display of Selflessness), as in the ‘pehle aap’ charade over the issue of chief minister of Maharashtra, when it’s perfectly clear that both desperately want the same chair. Putting ladoos in each other’s mouths may be great for the TV cameras, but it could also be a case of putting foot in mouth, an occupational hazard for those in politics. Just ask the aforementioned Tharoor.
Good neighbours: Another PDS that, like the pollution levels, only lasts a brief period, before it’s back to sniping and launching things at each other, like rockets and missiles. Indo-Pak relations, during Diwali, entered a macho period with both sides showing an excess of political testosterone. Post Diwali, the muscle-flexing has acquired a sharper edge, basically out to prove that ‘mine is bigger than yours’.