Early one morning two or three years ago, I found myself on the bank of the Ganga with nothing much to do. It was a ghat, a relatively small one as it happens, at a spot where the river, flowing right to left before me, was so wide I could not see the other side. I found myself a place to sit under a tree, pulled out a book and began to read. I must have spent three hours there, and actually I didn't get much read.
What was far more interesting was watching the people who visited the ghat.
To my right there was a ceremony in progress for someone who had died, the body lying on a bed of flowers in the midst of much quiet chanting and whispering. Fairly early, two young boys arrived at the waterline, unfurled long strings with something attached at the end, whirled it about their heads and cast it into the water. Magnets, with which they were trawling the river for metallic objects. People brought flowers. One man stood near me with folded hands, eyes closed and lips murmuring a prayer. Several man lowered themselves into the water and bathed.
In most respects it was a languid, peaceful three hours that I thoroughly enjoyed.
There were moments I didn't enjoy quite as much. Several men hawked and spat into the river, one of them producing long streaks of paan-coloured spittle. Every now and then, somebody brought a bag filled with trash and emptied it into the river. One didn't bother emptying the bag: he cocked his arm and flung it as far as he could. Four or five men brushed their teeth, rinsing their mouths with the same river water. At least two men walked past me, turned right, edged along the lowest step of the ghat about 20 metres, then stood and peed into the river. At least two men did the same edging, then squatted and defecated into the river.
So yes: I'm sitting there on the bank of the river, and I am trying to get used to the idea that there's sputum, garbage, toothpaste saliva, urine and shit going past me in this river. That there are men bathing in this murky concoction.
And when someone in Australia uses words like "junkyard" and "shithole" to describe India and this river, I cannot help remember the morning I spent on the banks of this river.
At least at that spot where I sat, he was right.
Now if there are those who feel like the river purifies itself and therefore it is clean, that's fine with me. They are welcome to their belief. In exactly the same way, they should allow others their revulsion at what they see happening to the same river. To call it what they think it is.
August 03, 2011
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We are a bunch of hypocrites. That's what we are.
In fact this same issue had come up during the Slumdog Millionaire. Most of us did not like the way the movie had cast India. Even though it is the truth and we see it right on our faces everyday
Had the same experience when I went to Varanasi. How can we pray to/in a river and then throw our garbage into the very same river?
But that being said, I don't think there's any excuse for the "junkyard" remark.
Amit: I see people flinging their litter on my street all the time. Nearly every stream/river I've seen in this country has trash thrown into it. All this should not be called a junkyard?
The same point could have been made using less inflammatory language. Many Indians -- devout Hindus among them -- have also been concerned about the Ganga and there have been efforts by various individuals and groups to counter the pollution. Words like "shithole" seem like deliberate and quite unnecessary provocation. Possibly like the infamous American radio host, Rush Limbaugh, Mr. Sandilands thrives on controversy and deliberately offensive remarks.
Having said that, I don't know why we should worry about the rantings of an obscure Australian radio host. Why did the Times of India even think this was worthy of publication?
Tailpiece: Rejoice! Mr. Sandilands has apologized. I note that this guy belongs to the Fox network which, as they say, explains a lot.
Do you think the pee-rs and defecators are the same as the bathers? In other words pee today, bathe tomorrow? The problem with shithole comments is that they are intended to degrade and demean, not describe or detoxify. Such comments are part of the problem and not part of the solution.
Yes, give credence to some moronic, obnoxious 5th rate radio host in Australia by quoting him. And also bring in "Slumdog Millionaire", to make an observation about hypocrisy. Wow, what heart and soul and spirit.
Dilip actually quoted and approved a FOX NETWORK host. Sureprises never ceases. But i forget as long as even the most moronic critics are ok for lefties who are brimming with Amti India / Hindu hatred.
Ah I see there's a collusion between guys who find "moronic" dudes across the seas.
Funny how none of these colluders seem to think it necessary to go and tell the fellows urinating and defecating into the Ganga, please don't do this, it desecrates a river we revere.
But the guys who see this happen and then use words like "shithole" and "junkyard" -- they are "moronic". The guys who ask, shouldn't we be asking those defecators and urinators some questions -- they are "Amti India" and filled with "Hindu hatred".
And people like this think they defend Hinduism.
... go and tell the fellows urinating and defecating into the Ganga, please don't do this, it desecrates a river we revere.
For what it's worth, I did. (Go and tell them).
Shows the respect we have for the river and for what we call drinking water.
Hopefully, the states through which it flows do not use it for drinking purposes.
I would like Mr. D'Souza to answer some questions. Where should said miscreants defecate, if not on the banks of the river? Do you have a plan for providing public toilets for the needy? Second, where should said miscreants throw their refuse? Do you have a garbage pickup plan for them? Are you, and your Australian friend both attacking the symptom and not the problem? Are you arresting the courier and not the drug lords? Telling them not to use the river is not enough. Provide them facilities or invite them home. You will then make your point more credibly.
Provide them facilities or invite them home. You will then make your point more credibly.
Not with these guys on the river banks, true. But I have done such provision/invitation with other folks here in Bombay.
Though I am absolutely uninterested in making my point here more credibly.
Good to know. That's the difference between you and the aussie. You are credible and he is just obnoxious. Although you are not interested in your own credibility, we indeed are!
Where should said miscreants defecate, if not on the banks of the river? Do you have a plan for providing public toilets for the needy? Second, where should said miscreants throw their refuse? Do you have a garbage pickup plan for them?
I don't know if such facilities are available at the banks of River Ganga and I am willing to give a benefit of doubt to the people littering Ganga. But littering is an all-India problem. On numerous occasions I have seen people throwing their garbage on the roads - the very roads that have enough garbage bins. I have seen some guys urinating on the very walls of a building that happens to be a public urinal at railway station. Spitting is like a national sport! It may be wrong on that Australian's part to use the terms that he used, but we as a nation don't deserve to be angry with him.
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