5 Nov 2010

Protect us from ourselves

Today is Diwali (as it is spelt here).

Every year, Diwali is celebrated around the world by noise – fireworks etc. Same in Trinidad, despite fireworks being illegal there. Yet, coming up to this time, one can see fireworks blatantly advertised and out on display, with police dunceys passing by in their air conditioned cars, on foot and even buying the illegal products.

Now, aside from the obvious illegality, we have problems with the hazards caused by fireworks, inclusive of scratch bombs etc. Not to mention pets going ‘mad’ from the noise.

Today the Newsday reported on a fire in a school caused by scratch bombs. Two teachers were burnt trying to put out a mattress set alight.

This reminded me of a Diwali in Trinidad a few years ago, where some children were playing with a triangular type scratch bomb. Now this particular type was louder than the typical ‘cigarette’ cylindrical ones. A young boy threw one up in the air, and coming down, it flew past the ear of one of my friends. At a distance of no more than a couple of feet from his ear, it went off. Of course, the noise sent him deaf, and we waited for his hearing to return after a few minutes. Instead we saw blood trickling from his ear. His eardrum was ruptured.

I also remember when a lit ‘starlight’ (sparkler) landed on my mother’s neck after someone threw it up in the air.

Another incident I recall very clearly involved the same cylindrical fireworks. A man scratching them on a match box and setting them off (throwing them up in the air) did not realise his child, a mere 3 or 4 years old, was watching how he used the matches. The child then lit one, unobserved by the father. Instead of throwing it away, the child remained holding it in a closed fist. The resulting explosion blew off most of the flesh from the child’s hand, exposing the bones with shreds of flesh hanging out from the spaces between the bones.

I was working in A & E when that child came in and I recall the horror and anguish of the parents. I also recall thinking to myself that parents don’t think of the consequences of their actions, especially on children, until too late. Now, I am sure that father was truly repentant, but would that have helped the child? Surely not. Too little too late, as the saying goes.

No matter how ‘unfair’ we think laws can be, there is usually some rationale, some mischief it is designed to protect us from. No matter how disciplined we think we are, it seems we need to be protected from ourselves.