It was a cacophonic assortment of thermocol, plastic and paper that we had to wade across in order to get back home. Interspersed in between, apart from a heavy odour of rancid oil, were piles of fruit and vegetable peels shared blissfully by flies and a merry gang of ragpickers; both equally unmindful of the spiritual extravaganza just gone by.
Across the road, atop a makeshift stage that till now had doled out kulfi to the thronging worshippers of Lord Jagannath; stood two pot-bellied, branded cardigan clad city industrialists, a satisfied grin on their faces as they helped each other down the massive iron and wood stage; oblivious to the mess that their philanthropic gesture had created.
The next morning, the city woke up to a heavy smell of dioxins (one of the chemicals released on burning plastic), chemicals and swear words as municipal sweepers set on fire the overnight remnants of plastic bottles, foam cups and other disposable cutlery.
The story is repeated year after year as the Ludhiana elite, in a show of one-upmanship in their devotion to Lord Jagannath, vie for the most prominent spots to put up their stalls. These stalls offer delicacies ranging from halwa, puri-chana, chowmein, ice-cream, assorted biscuits and even chocolates.
They are accompanied by hoardings displaying names in a distasteful show of wealth and power. Worse is the fact that in the name of charity, it is the so-called lesser children of God and the needy who are blatantly turned away from the stalls, where preference is given to the well-fed.
While I am nobody to question the devotion and faith of the industrial hub's big guns, what is painful is the least concern they have for ethics and civic sense, particularly in a city that till a few years ago took pride in being known as the 'Merc capital' of the country.
The gusto and alacrity with which the stalls are erected on roads, lakhs spent on decoration, lighting and devotional music (played at full blast), are in sharp contrast to the lack of civic sense on full public display after the Lord's chariot has moved on.
What a pity then that it is this very strata whose drawing room conversation revolves around sending children abroad for higher studies or experience! Is it because its members are scared to show their children the city's dark under belly created by their own disregard for infrastructure, law and security, leave alone the big talk of concern for the environment.
Disregard it is, otherwise how difficult is it for the power-wielding industrialists and politicians doling out eatables worth lakhs in charity to engage a couple of workers to ensure that the litter goes into dustbins or simpler still to hire a few people and get the mess cleaned up before they get down from their raised platforms?