Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Ganga Clean India Clean : Haridwar @ Kumbh Mela

clean, India clean

One of the many slogans along the roads of Haridwar during Kumbh Mela caught my attention. Why does Kumbh mela happen and why only at four places? Why burnt ashes and bones are immersed in River Ganga?

I not only got answers to the above but it also gave me a glimpse of India’s tourism potential might if governance and civic sense demonstrate their vigil.

Visiting Haridwar during Kumbh mela came by chance. When that chance came through Good Friday, I did not miss it. Just before Meerut, we took a bypass that goes along the ' Ganga Nahar’. This road has an adjacent pavement for ' Kavdi' - devotees who carry Ganga water on their bare foot. Width of this road is barely enough to cross two cars but it spares a trouble from the plying trucks and pollution of the main road. Water pump that draws water from the tunnel and transform into lush green outstretched fields shows gift of water in bringing the prosperity and the happiness. Along the road on the opposite side of the tunnel are the strings of ' cow Dung Mountains’ neatly stacked for drying. Flow of the water is palpable even from the car and at every few kms a road crosses over the tunnel announcing the depth of the tunnel at 12 ft. Cluster of dwellings signify the residing communities that tend to sugarcane and rice fields nurtured by pure Ganga water. Occasional brick furnace is the only spoiler in otherwise serene natural surroundings of this bypass. However, this road has no lights and therefore a definite NO to travel after dusk. We left Ghaziabad well past 3pm and that meant driver had to hurry through. A resort cum restaurant by name ' chital' is hugely popular. They serve every cuisine but northerners love to pounce on ' pakoras’ as they come out of frying pans. Place is relatively clean with a mini zoo of roosters and birds at the backside .This place is almost now a defacto stopover for all travelers. I won't be surprised if Mac or Pizza Hut appears next door and ride on the success of 'chital'.

On our return, we shared a table space with ' aged Agrawal couple ‘who were amused by our disparate geographical background. He was proud of his children career achievements but could not keep his curiosity of knowing my salary suppressed. I find it hard to answer someone when I am confronted ' how much is your salary? ' . ‘It’s enough to survive ' doesn't deter with some, at least with this lovely old couple. He was concerned of his granddaughter going around with a doctor boy friend but showed his willingness to accept premarital dating but he also sympathized with his wife of taking to accept changing trends of Indian society. 'How did you meet? ‘In Indian rupees, how much your salary turns out to be? ' . I answered to a man who was proud to emphasize his designation at the time of his retirement.

‘I am Gujar and I only vote for Gujar candidates'. This statement underlined the caste dimension of Utter Pradesh. ‘If my son ever marries a scheduled caste girl, he is out of my sight ‘. His despise against bahenji ' Mayawati' was obvious. However, if she puts a Gujar candidate, he has no problem. It would be ages for India to get rid of caste domination. Agrawal family's grand children though are doing their best to erase the thick lines that separates one human being from another.

By sunset, we were just half way to our destination. This meant abandoning the by pass and being squeezed among carbon spewing trucks in the darkness. We reached Haridwar well past 9pm. Flowing Ganga water was resplendent with lights around. Colorful lamps adorned every math, bamboo barricades on either of the road ensured that people on foot did not spill on roads. Barricades forced people to form a queue and whole area was under patronage of the Indian army. Clean roads, well disciplined crowd management, audible public address system to instruct the people, well laid out designated car parking. Haridwar during Kumbh mela showcased the best what can India offer. It would be appropriate to accord public recognition to govt officers, administrators who managed this place so wonderfully.

'Personality Cult ' is nowhere as evident as in India. People love to see themselves on posters, pamphlets through photographs, names, slogans depicted on Hoardings, banners and plastered walls. When we had enough of Salman Khan with his ' wheel detergent', Kareena Kapoor with ' shakti bhog ata', Amitabh through Dabar hair oil from the rooftops of the kothis on the either of the side of the road, another poster war was being unleashed inside the territory of this holy city of Haridwar. Every religious, spiritual leader known or unknown through public media welcomed the visitor with his either one line sermon or warning of depletion of Hindu religion. Some announced their programs while some bemoaned about global warming. Whatever it was, they brought colors, entertainment to the charm of Haridwar,

We missed spectacle of lamps during evening aarti at Hari Ki Pauri but made it up by witnessing sunrays piercing through the mountain range of Himalayas. Early morning visit to the ghat made us avoid the crowd. A ubiquitous symbol of clock tower at Hari Ki Pauri, stood much the same way except that this time , his clock needles had stopped somewhere close to 12 hours. I thought of my photograph taken at the same place along with my Aaji and away. I was four then. Now it would be the turn of Akshta to carry the memories of Haridwar through digital photos with a backdrop of flowing Ganga water. ‘I want to swim’; Akshta’s persistent demands made Ganga no more than a swimming pool with swimmers at the edge.

Visit to Rishikesh was a mandatory. A quick boat ride across the bank to say hello to ' chotiwala' and have a photo session on ' Laxman Jhoola’ completed the tour before rising sun rays and the temperature sapped our energy. Return journey was through another road along the water tunnel that bypasses Haridwar. Overlooking plains if Ganges lined with tents gave me an idea what it must be like in Hajj.

Guru Ramdev is the ' Personality of the decade '. Through his yoga, he changed the outlook of ordinary people towards health, fitness and believes in Ayurveda. Outside the city of Haridwar, he has built a medical college and hospital. We made a quick round of this hospital that had modern diagnostic gadgets and dormitory for patients and relatives. His published magazines on Yoga were my companions in remaining days of my stay in India.

Swarnabhoomi airport at Bangkok has sculptural depiction of ' churning of nectar' by Vishnu. Four drops spilled over at Prayag, Nasik, Ujjain and Haridwar making them holy places. The amount of time, our bones are in contact with water of Ganga, is in constant proportion to the time we spend in heaven. Beliefs that make Hindus immerse their bones and ashes in the Ganga. Clean flowing Ganga at Haridwar is a witness to the genesis of India's civilization. I just could dip my hand in the ice-cold flowing water. I hope that it would allow me to knock on the doors of heaven and peep it inside.



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