By Dr R Neerunjun Gopee
Not having been able to walk to Ganga Talao on the occasion of Maha Shivaratri this year because of a fracture of my ankle, I had no choice but to accept being driven on last Monday morning. This allowed us to avoid vehicular traffic and a potential jam, which would have been a problem for me as sitting for long tends to make the foot swollen and become uncomfortable, even painful at times.
It was a pleasant journey in loving company, which is the most important thing in our lives at all times. When I was at college, I remember reading a passage where it was said that man is a gregarious animal, and the teacher (perhaps it was Mr Bullen, Rector at the RCC) elaborated on this idea. As the years have passed, and circumstances of life have kept altering, the truth of this passage has been borne out over and over again, and with each passing event it has seemed to become even truer. That was why I was particularly touched when the offer was made to take me along, and I enjoyed every single moment of that trip to and fro.
It was a beautiful morning, the sun was shining, and there was just that much of a breeze about. Iresha, all of two and a half years old, kept us happy and busy, though it was with some reluctance that she parted with one of the grenadines that her dada had plucked from his garden at La Flora where we stopped briefly on the way back. I must make up for that to her soon enough!
I achieved the objective of the trip, namely to do the puja at the water edge, ‘connecting’ to Bhagavan Shiva’s cosmic vastness through the symbolic act of returning the water to the lake and ‘offering’ it to Him at the same time – how do you offer to someone who is the source of the offering to begin with! – and then collecting some water from the lake to do a similar offering during the puja at home.
However, since this time I was not concentrating on walking, and had a larger view from the vantage point of sitting in a 4 x 4, I could not help seeing what I saw. And what I saw did not please my eyes, and I asked myself why do the pilgrims keep throwing their plastic cups on the grass all over the place along the road to Ganga Talao? All it requires is for them to wait a little until they reach the next dustbin and drop them there. I know it’s a rhetorical question – or perhaps not?
Because, instead of giving all manner of speeches ad nauseam, what our so-called socio-cultural leaders should do throughout the year is to pass these simple messages of basic hygiene and civic sense. This should also happen at the level of the family and of local organisations which gather the pilgrims to go walking. So simple, and yet year in year out we are pained to see the same indiscipline prevailing.
Let me say that I do not hold out much hope for next year… I do not apologize for the cynicism, but I present my humble excuses to all my non-Hindu compatriots on behalf of those irresponsible Hindus and the equally indifferent leaders who will, it appears, never learn.
If they have not been, I would strongly recommend to them to take the trip to Vaishno Devi, so that they learn at first hand what it means to maintain cleanliness and hygiene on a pilgrimage track. Perhaps, just perhaps, things might then change in future on the way to Ganga Talao. I may not live to see that day though… though I keep up hope all the same.
* * *
I watched part of the interview of the Libyan leader Colonel Khadafi on BBC. ‘All my people love me, love me,’ he said, smiling, ‘they are prepared to die for me.’
The next clip showed the thousands of Libyans amassed at the Tunisia border, dying to leave the country.
It was a sad sight indeed, and cannot but evoke great sympathy for those desperate people running away to where they faced an uncertain future, what with the situation in Tunisia being still unstable. The border guards had great difficulty controlling the swelling crowd, made up of men, women and children who carried their belongings on their heads, in bundles or suitcases, tired, hungry and thirsty, and struggling to get past the post.
An analyst who was being interviewed said that a majority of the people fleeing were the ‘founding’ elite of Libya, professionals that included doctors, engineers, architects and so on – and expressed doubts as to whether, IF the situation improved in Libya, they would be willing to return. He thought this was highly improbable, and this would make the task of reconstructing Libya more difficult, and perpetuate misery and poverty in a country rich in oil and whose citizens could potentially have one of the highest standards of living in the world.
Yet another humanitarian crisis, which is totally unnecessary!
* Published in print edition on 3 March 2011