Yesterday, the city marked a relatively safer dahi handi than it has done previously. One says relatively, because there were still some injuries to govindas, with a number of them sent to the hospital.
Even so, awareness seems to have crept in, slowly but surely. Some dahi handis were cancelled altogether prior to the festival for different reasons. At other celebrations one saw that govindas were wearing a modicum of safety gear. There were helmets, some harnesses, there were also some arm grips on a number of govindas. While there is much to be done in terms of safety, with every govinda togged out in full safety gear, a beginning has been made. One can only push for even more widespread safety measures the next time around, with an absolute policy that won’t let up when it comes to this aspect.
There was also another heartening feature to this year’s dahi handi. One could see mandals following the rule of no children below 12 for the pyramid. There may have been some exceptions — one does not really know about every single dahi handi in Mumbai. Yet, at certain places, one saw govindas carrying their laminated birth certificates stating they were over the 12-year-old limit.
Mandals must realise that the government is not trying to play party pooper by making rules, and they should do their best to ensure the rules are followed. Rules need to be respected and followed for the safety of govindas. In fact, even before the festival had taken off there were a few attempts to give it some kind of communal angle by saying that cancelling dahi handis is going counter to Hindu culture. People must be extremely wary of falling into this trap. Nothing can be further from the truth, and making rules does not mean going against culture or draining a festival of meaning.
It is good to see the dahi handi festival ‘maturing’ in a way and actually ‘coming of age’ with these safeguards. Let us accept and follow rules in the way they were made, with regard to life and limb of those on the pyramid.