Monday, August 12, 2013

Saffron and Green

So I am shamelessly stealing the title of this post from Mukul Sharma's book. Well yes. But it is very nearly on the same topic. And I am planning to read the  book! so this is almost a review! So I am entitled to steal the name.

I have clearly been hanging around with the sort of people who believe in entitlement.

The problem is that Mr.Sharma has analysed the manner in which hindu nationalism has permeated (and practically hijacked) the environmental movement in India. But he has not provided us with an users' guide to the phenomenon and that is what I sorely  need.

I am currently with, and will be spending the next week with, a group of most warm and friendly people. On hearing of my interest in the River Gomti, they have happily shifted around their already busy schedules and accommodated me and my questions.

All of yesterday, we spent touring the Gomti, her 26 tributaries within the city, and Lucknow's two sewage treatment plants. We also visited several ghats. The photo at the top of this post is from one such ghat- the only private bathing space on the Gomti. It  is a Hindu dharamsala- a place to stay for poor pilgrims. It was built by Lalla Bhagwandas in the memory of his father about a  hundred years ago, and the family still manages it. The structure, especially the colours in the first photo, was the most beautiful thing I saw all day. I would not have dreamed of the existence of this place if it were not for my hosts. With them, I got entry into a world I had not know existed.

I ate pakoras made by a sadhu, and the conversation I was privy to helped me understand how these kindly men become pawns for land grabbers. I watched squirrels run across a brick-paved courtyard and tried to hide my disbelief when I was told stories of yogis who can perform miracles. 'It's all documented' I was told. I nodded politely.

I could not however 'nod politely' when the conversation veered off into the sickeningly inevitable direction of nationalism. The 'persecution of hindus' was spoken of. 'We are ignoring our culture' was a lamented topic. I commented about how different life is in the south..I mentioned that in places beyond the Gangetic belt, people do not speak hindi (gasp!). I hinted that while Ayurveda is excellent, Unani medicine is not to be sneered at either. I suggested that eating of meat may be more of an ecological choice rather than a moral one. I reminisced of my childhood along the coast where for 4 months of the year, the monsoons flood fields and roughen seas. The only food available then is rice and dried fish- both carefully stocked in the summer. I spoke about the high himalaya, where meat is an essential-and ecologically sound- source of protein and fat in the winter. I spoke and spoke..and never got heard.

Today I am off for a week with this group. A trip I would not be able to make without their hospitality. A trip that will be all the richer for the people they will introduce me to, for the places that they will show me.

And yet, and yet..I will also lose out on some things..I am fairly sure that this is going to be a saffron trip. It will be churlish of me to push the comfort zone of my hosts. This pushing will not help either..they are much respected leaders, firmly convinced of the rightness of their philosophy.

Mr. Sharma, I need a workbook.


nadi said...

Ms. Chicu,

We need a book.

Put all that you see in it.

दीपा पाठक said...

Hi Chicu..lovely thought-provoking post like always. And i completely agree with nadi 'we need a book from you'


दीपा पाठक said...

Hi Chicu..lovely thought-provoking post like always. And i completely agree with nadi 'we need a book from you'