Joined the TATA consultancy Mumbai group to clean up after visarjan. 1000s of people came together with such community spirit at 5am on a working day, doing whatever little they could! It was almost cathartic. Here is what I learnt:
1. It’s the annual house cleaning
It was as if the day after the kids make a mess at home and one has to clean up. This is home. People who do visarjan without taking responsibility of the aftermath or not understanding the philosophy behind the ritual, who are not taught to see the ideal behind the idol and are doing what they think ought to be done, who consider Ganesha to be in the idol until they do the visarjan and the next day when the idol floats back to the shore with broken arm/leg/tusk and so on, there is no Ganesha in that idol. – they are the kids who are just playing with the rituals like children would. And we have to take charge of cleaning up the mess if we understand sustainability, Ganesha, clean environment – any or all of this. We can complain about it or can smile, understand where they are coming from, and get on with the cleaning.
3. What do you consider wealth?
Is it good use of resources? Could we not just contribute towards having paid people do it instead and invest our time into doing more productive work? How will me picking plastic bags be the efficient option?
Here is the thing- it really depends on what resource we consider wealth. Wealth is what we value. If we value time, then no it’s not good use of time, because we could hire people to do this and we can get on with more productive work. If we value money, then yes or no depending on how the cost analysis has been done. But most importantly, if we value the growth, the experience of feeling the oneness with the community, to get rid of likes and dislikes of how disgusting it is to pick up and clean up, to smile through it and feel like you let yourself be the instrument in a bigger picture, contributing positively to the society by getting your hands dirty – then I don’t know about you, but I would choose to be there.
3. Sustainable Ganesha campaigns are working!
Slowly but surely more and more people are choosing to have more biodegradable Ganesha idols home. It is not that we have to give up on the ritual because there is a level of purity which can be gained through doing it with the right understanding and attitude. But feeling the love for the God doesn’t mean feeling no love for Mother Nature who is selflessly providing constantly!
So one of the volunteers who has been coming for 6 years told me that apparently this year there are less idols and more plastic. So the biodegradable idol campaigns are working or less and less people are choosing not to follow the ritual at all! If it is the former or the latter, here is me hoping that either ways one understands the philosophy, the love and purity one is meant to invoke from the ritual.
As far as using plastic is concerned, the sad part is: (1) we have to segregate waste. This campaign is a tough one because it is again value for time and money that will get added to this process of just binning something and are people willing to trade their time and money for this. (2) we need to find a reasonable and waterproof replacement for plastic. Until that happens we can keep trying all we want, but the battle is way bigger. Until the biodegradable idols, the tree ganeshas came in, to tell people not to do visarjan could be considered a waste of time. But no campaign is a waste if done with the right attitude, even if it’s not the perfect solution. Because some did the campaign against visarjan, someone was made aware and was able to come up with the biodegradable option. So I am optimistic that sooner or later the plastic campaigns will get to that person who will hopefully invent or invest into the appropriate replacement for plastic.
4. It was internal cleaning
It is not the physical act of external cleaning but the purpose of any ritual is the internal cleaning, the purity that one has to go through. So while most of the city is busy praying to the idol, one should invest time into understanding the ideal behind the idol. I studied the Ganapathi Atharvashirsha Upanishad from Atharva Veda. While most of the city is busy doing visarjan of the idol, one should do visarjan of the ego and negativities or whatever it is that you want to give up. I decided to immerse my attachment to compulsive action/work in the sea of love, devotion and discipline. And while 1000s come together to do the external clean up, one could focus on the internal clean up, expanding the identity little by little. I decided to feel one with the city I want to call home. The choice is ours. Do we want to do the external action while keeping our focus outward or turning inward? For me this was true celebration of Ganesh Chaturthi.
I leave that for you to reflect what Ganesh Chaturthi is for you. Until you figure it out, keep loving Ganesha, and express it in whatever way is most in harmony with what you believe is an expression of the love and purity, keep striving to expanding identities beyond just the selfish I, me and mine..and either ways keep cleaning!