Many of us must be deeply wistful that so much of ‘sujalam suphalam’ India seems so beggared by poverty of imagination and maintenance in the world beyond Lodhi Gardens and India Gate Lawns; that so many green thumbs in our country are denied a chance to contribute on honourable terms to public spaces, to the quality of national life.
Gardens and green spaces do matter in keeping us refreshed for the daily grind. They are deeply psychological and affect our well-being in profound ways. Chinese writer Jung Chang, author of the worldwide bestseller Wild Swans, told me years ago in Delhi -— at the India International Centre, overlooking Lodhi Gardens — that one of the mind-control moves that Chairman Mao made to keep his people in line was to order that trees should be cut down.
And what about us as individuals, treating all public spaces as a private dustbin? Surely one of our most disgusting collective experiences has to be the annual Dussehra mela in Delhi colonies, of park lawns covered with layers of greasy paper plates, dirtying people’s feet, staining hems. What religion and what culture can we claim to possess if we can’t take the ground beneath our feet for granted while gawking as we came to do, at Ravan? Is it really so much trouble to affirm our honour with a simple act of good citizenry and take four extra steps to the dustbin, while gathered to celebrate the epic hero who wandered through jungles and crossed the sea millennia ago to do what had he had to do to keep his honour?
Cultural literacy: at the end of the day, the biggest agenda for the Dharma conferences and big religious gatherings of the sacerdotal class (priests and babas) of every sect should be to spread the civic message that ‘Cleanliness is Godliness’, that God would so much rather be offered ‘mindfulness’ as worship in place of greasy laddoos and messy bunches of flowers in plastic bags. Peach blossoms are merely another poignant reminder from Nature to ‘mind it’.
Renuka Narayanan writes on religion and culture firstname.lastname@example.org