Of dignity, sanctity and sanity!

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 27 Sep 2018 09:35:31



Vijay Phanshikar,

Of course, times have changed -- for better or for worse, or for both. Scales stand upgraded today in everything -- from the numbers of people to their activities. And everything has come for a price, and at times, that becomes a terrible price. This is what we have been realising for donkey’s years in the city, particularly after the Ganesh festival is over and we immerse the idols and leave behind a mess that we take days to clean up. In some cases, we never clean it up in a true sense.

This year, however, we seem to have learned some lessons, if not totally and correctly. Yet, a walk down the Telangkhedi (Futala) lake-front revealed right the day after immersion that the area was fairly clean. True, the waters did have a lot of mess of the left-overs of idols and their wooden frames and dried grass and nirmalya and even shiny cloths that the devotees used to decorate the idols with. But immersions were still continuing and the mess seemed to be present eternally. But, let us admit, two days after the immersion, the Telangkhedi lake-front and also the lake itself had been fairly cleaned up. A more or less similar state was in evidence at other immersion sights as well.

Obviously, the city seems to have done its post-immersion act well, and does deserve a pat on the back. And for this to happen, the whole city -- or a very big number of people at all levels -- had to wake up in time and take care of the post-immersion condition almost on a war-footing. This certainly left a sweet taste in the mouth.

Yet, let us not forget that this did not become possible just in a day. Frankly, it took years for this blessed city to learn its lessons right. So many newspaper articles, so many
photographs demonstrating the filth the city left behind after Ganesh immersion, so many meetings, so many political thrusts, so many social cries, and so many lamentations that we were not learning the right lessons -- all this went into this change that has assumed a somewhat positive dimension now.

Of course, we were making progress, all right. Yet, that was an excruciatingly slow process. At some points, right-thinking people even started feeling frustrated as they realised that the common people were refusing to give even a scant thought to the environmental damage the city was causing to its own eco-system. But then came those slow, painstaking -- and also painful -- steps that the city took towards better management of immersion issues.

Seeing this, one’s mind darts back in time, say, fifty-plus years ago. There were no environmental issues as such in those days to bother our collective conscience. But the city immersed its idols after every festival with more dignity, sanctity, and sanity. Immersions, then, took place over several days, as they do now as well. But, the day after the last immersions had taken place, the lakes would be almost flawlessly clean. The people and the civic authorities joined hands -- without any fanfare, though -- to clean the places. Nobody allowed the leftovers to dirty the lakes. This environmental awareness, without today’s propaganda and hype, was part of the traditional learning each generations passed onto the next in every home. Ask any senior citizen and he/she would endorse this impression.

But then, with the ugly onslaught of a consumerist culture on our society say thirty-or-so years ago onwards, things turned bad and then worse. Almost all of a sudden, we started ignoring our gifts from Nature -- the water-bodies, the wooded places, the public places ...! We also started
distorting, sheerly out of ugly ideological politics, our religious beliefs and started ignoring, in the process, the environmental damage we were heaping on ourselves.

Our civic authorities, too, slept, and did not mind people destroying lakes by undertaking huge construction activity in their catchment areas. This happened not just in Sonegaon Lake area but also all over the city -- the Naik Talao, the Lendi Talao, the Sakkardara Talao, the Nag River, the Pili River, the Pohra River ...! And we celebrated the damage we were causing to our long-term interests in the name of development. Our builders and their political stooges who signed on the dotted lines, allowed the city to be tormented beyond belief.

Our water-bodies were the worst-affected in this fraudulent developmental onslaught. And like villainous sons and daughters of our mother-city, we rejoiced in the damage and danger. There is no doubt that the real Gods -- up there somewhere -- have already punished us for all that cumulative and collective sin. They have punished us with water scarcity, sources of polluted water-supply, subsequent social ill-health, and disturbed minds. Most unfortunately, we took terribly long years to realise what damage we have caused to ourselves. For, even though we
worshiped various Gods, we did not understand the Divine message -- of protection and conservation of environment, and our responsibility towards keeping our surroundings clean and cleansed.

This year, the post-immersion scene appears to be somewhat better. Yet, let us not fool ourselves with such
assurances. For, we are far from the ideal conduct. We are far from understanding our own religions, whichever those may be. We are far from understanding the environmental message embedded in our tradition and culture and ethos. Against this background, we would be only foolish to tell ourselves that we have done well.

Hardly, friends! We have hardly done well, though we may have done a little better than what we did last year and the previous years. Yet, I must end on a positive note, that it feels somewhat better to see some sense dawning on our
mental horizons. Over time, we will have to improve still more. And, we will also have to start thinking of reducing the size of Ganesh idols. The authorities had, once, appealed that idols be not bigger than 4 feet. But that norm stands long forgotten, nay intentionally ignored as a mark of senseless revolt. We will have to start changing that behaviour.