At long last, Hindu religious organizations are trying to drive the message of discipline and respect for the environment in the minds of the public. Well done and good luck! We might still have to wait some years before devotees stop littering the grounds at Grand Bassin, shivalas and mandirs with papers, wraps and bottles.
Mind you, people over here in Mauritius have a knack for keeping alive bad habits until they become life threatening. Just ponder over the awareness campaign against diabetes conducted by the different Ministries of Health on television for more than a decade before the public began to react. Indeed, the Ministry of Health did a good job sensitizing the public on healthy food habits. But people have stuck to old food habits for years and usually start reacting only when it glaringly strikes them that the disease has been taking a heavy toll across the country, affecting at least one or two members in every single family.
So long as the flocks at temples do not realize that the grounds of religious halls should not look like the mess after the closure of the market in Port Louis, one had better not be too optimistic about the effectiveness of the discourses on discipline and cleanliness being broadcast on television.
Judging from media reports, most devotees focus on the blessings they hope to obtain in performing rites. The concept of self-purification or meditation on Cosmic consciousness is not necessarily shared by all the people on the way to Ganga Talao. Generally, Hindus are not strictly regimented as it is the case for quite some other organized religions. The younger ones, especially, could be inculcated the deeper quest for which such religious occasions may be employed. It should benefit all, not only the more mature ones.
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Every time a sordid crime is committed in the country, the discourse on lack of values and morals resurfaces. Pray, can anyone explain when and where do youngsters and adults get the notion of their Dharmic culture, of universal law, doing the right thing, karma, a sense of duty, sadhana, righteousness, compassion, love, positive vibrations and Cosmic energy? Especially when the formal educational system consumes more than enough of children’s time, burdening them with private tuitions even in the week-ends. Especially, when parents are too overworked to attend to the spiritual needs of their children, and a big chunk of the adult population has grown up within a corrupt system, and cultivated a degree of indulgence towards lying and cheating regarded as part of the system to make one’s way in society.
As long as religious festivals are dedicated to observing a few rituals in a festive atmosphere without deeper grasp of meanings, knowledge of scriptures, introspection and efforts for spiritual self-development, there is reason for a lot of additional serious work to be done. What opportunities are given to young and adults alike to even utter and understand a few words in Sanskrit is anybody’s guess! Or one can reckon in terms of hours and minutes. Too much physical and mental efforts are devoted to ensure material welfare without probing deeper into the heart of the religion.
In the absence of a formal organization to transmit knowledge of scriptures and general philosophy, one wonders how the upcoming younger Hindu population will truly benefit from the millenary treasures of their heritage. What percentage of adults and children practise yoga and enjoy its benefits on health, concentration and self-control should be a cause to be taken up by the senior members of the community. To sum up, if leaders of religious organizations have limited ambitions for the community, not to mention those who take advantage of religious platform to promote personal interests, giving insufficient attention to spiritual yearnings, sharing, transmitting and keeping alive a vast knowledge of the human mind and body, philosophy, of science and universal laws, then the real treasures of the culture cultivated over millennia will take a lot of time to dawn on the younger ones who are keen to be more firmly rooted in their faith.
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A crowd of around two hundred people filled the NTA building at Plaine Lauzun last week. Queuing up for registration of a vehicle lasted one and a half hours. A bazar atmosphere reigned there with two women security officers announcing numbers which no one could hear unless you were three metres away from them. The two women have the same useless role as their counterparts in overstaffed public or private bodies, banks, courts, CWA, Air Mauritius office in the capital for instance, but moving around and directing people where to stand, to move forward, when to sit and herding them around gives them some sense of usefulness.
Behind the counters, the functionaries carry on their duties as they have done for years. Bits of conversations centred on the obsolete centralization of such services. One man from Mahébourg came to pay a fine of eleven thousand rupees, for two days’ delay in showing up for a payment. It looked as if an unconscious spirit of sadism had crept in the laws that are enacted to punish common folks. From every corner of Mauritius, people leave their homes early, take half a day off from work to waste their time waiting for their turns to submit papers to the officers. It is so exasperating, infuriating and mind-blowing that a few ministries can impose such incompetence on citizens in a country which claims to be among the top in Africa on the “ease of doing business”.
Call it state violence, and let us have no qualms about labelling such abject service to the public as a condemnable situation under the law. It mirrors the sometimes total lack of impunity with which elected representatives of the people carry out their duties in governments of all hues. There is no public body which can prosecute them for inflicting something that may be qualified as punishment of the public. What is worrying is that, presumably, those who behave thus are not even aware of being incompetent. Notwithstanding the soaring number of vehicle owners over the last decades, the administration seems to have kept functioning with its depleted structure of sixty years ago.
In the name of efficiency and adaptation to the modern age, public services such as delivering identity cards, passports and driving licenses should have been decentralized to several parts of the country a number of years earlier. How on earth is that so difficult to be understood by ministers? Is it really about control freaks? Control freaks usually are afraid of losing power over others. It is a mental disease which seems to have sunk deep into the minds of those who have been at the helm of governance for decades. At your expense.
There is no official body to assess the cost of state incompetence and how it impacts psychologically and financially the public at large. Find the logic behind the road tax being collected and relate it to the desperate state of several roads which are in dire need of repair.
* Published in print edition on 4 March 2015