Friday, August 14, 2009

Godavari Ghat at Nasik – a distressing experience

Sept 2003 issue of Times of India reported Raj Thakre’s blue Print of Nasik : " A jogger's park along the Godavari ghat with the trees to be planted along the route, , snow-theme park, a health spa, boat club and an amusement park ".

Somewhere in the by lanes of my memory labyrinths lie a wonderful memory of Godavari Ghat that refuse to smudge or fade. Image of me holding the fingers of my grand mother, going along the sloping road from Bhadrakali temple to Godavari Ghat. Standing along the river in the twilight, youngsters wearing ‘red langoti’ diving off from the trapezoid shaped ‘cement block’ that stood in the middle of the flowing Godavari river . That cement block may have been served as the measuring device to know the depth of the river.

My visit in 99 to Godavari Ghat shook my childhood image and another visit last month is now threatening to tatter that image forever. It pained me that see the plastic packets chocking the standstill water of Godavari that was regulated due to summer water shortage. Stagnant water was inviting mosquitoes to breed with vigor. Nicely laid down steps along the ghat almost designed to wash everything from , clothes, utensils,vegetables to animals and human being. The washed water joined the main stream. A small drainage pipe below the bridge on one side emptied its contents , pushing the stagnant water bed cluttered with floating flowers and leaves offered by devotees . Water just did not have any force to spill it over the bank that was in place. It was now pathetic to see the condition of this place.

Brendan and Ellie in their blog 'Yatra across India' vividly talks about the difficulty that westerners face when they see the reality conflict with the hopes and the fascination they had come with “ In the sticky Indian heat, I had to fight a strong urge to leap into the water like everyone else around me. But once I had a closer look, the health risk became all too apparent. I saw a young girl pooing on the stairs. People washing utensils with dirty soap water swirling into the river. Later I read that people get hepatitis, jaundice, and similar nasty diseases from taking a dunk into the holy water. The river Godavari seems to be indicative of a broader national conundrum – how to reconcile religious beliefs etched into the Hindu psyche over generations with modern day notions of health, sanitation and science. Making annual pilgrimages to the Godavari where the exiled gods Rama and Sita are believed to have lived is part of this devotion. Hence to question why they decide to enter the water is like questioning why Catholics need to be baptised or why Muslims make their daily namaz towards Mecca. People still believe that the river, Rama and Sita will protect them and to question this belief for some would be to question their faith.

River harvesting discusses the tragedy of Godavari - second largest river in India. Godavari is not suffering from the same source of distress as that of Ganges. Ganges has a problem of half burnt corpses from those who cannot afford cremation, chemical waste from textile and brass making industries, and untreated sewage. For Godavari, domestic pollution accounts for 82% per cent of total pollution and industrial pollution about 18 per cent. This is a good sign for Godavari river that can be corrected by strong civic administration . Raj Thakre's grip on Nasik is evident from the votes his party MNS secured in general election and through the presence of his posters, banners across the Nasik. If he has a will, he can still make his dream a reality

Nasik has expanded its industrial base. Ambad Industrial Estate with its well laid down grid of roads give positive impression of Nasik. I am sure all these industries would be happy to be the part of beautifying Godavari Ghat – that remains the soul of Nasik. The easiest would be to hand over the place to charity organizations like Rotary/Lions club or managed by a private contractor who can maintain it from the revenue collection of car parks or charging fee for the visitors like they do at national monuments.

While going to Shirdi next day, past the town of Sinnar, we crossed the bridge over Godavari River. This time, Godavari looked cheerful despite being muddy from the chunk of mound that she carried with her. Winding river edges chiseled at different angles look making visible fertile brown earth that gave green top with string of grape vineyards. Godavari must be happy to leave from the clutches of urbane settlement of Nasik.

My Nasik Blog gives some nice photos of various temples along the Godavari Ghat

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