A Walk with Reality

It was the August of 2009. I had come home from hostel for the couple of days extending over the 15th August holiday. Weather seemed fine and so I decided to go for an early morning walk around the irenic township of Haridwar. I had gone for such an expedition earlier as well so I was expecting a similar kind of experience as I had before. My erstwhile walks used to be conjunct by the chirruping of birds leaving their nests, flying towards the colossal sky.

There were birds of different colours and feathers. The roads used to be clean and vacant with a few other joggers running past me. By the holy Ganga, the walk used to be the most peaceful one with the beat of the water-flow adding rhythm to my walk. The sun used to come up half the way back home but the cool shade of the tall firm trees used to fence me from the heat. The rounds used to be outstretched still I never felt even a streak of tiredness. However, the misadventure I faced this time around left me awestruck.
It was dawn but the atmosphere was sultry and dull.

Not a leaf of the nearby trees moved and there was an eerie silence all around. As I took the first turn round the corner I was greeted by a pungent smell, which I deduced was coming from a garbage bin. Walking past that bin I saw gargantuan heap of rotten materials, days or probably weeks old, covering almost three quarter of the road. What caught my eyes were the numerous polythene bags, which outnumbered all the other materials taken together. Vivid images shown in National Geographic Channel of cattle choking in these polybags flashed in front of my eyes.

Every year millions of animals die that way, simply because of human ignorance. As I went ahead for another mile or so, I was met by another ghastly sight. There was a dead pigeon lying on the corner of the road and dozens of crows were hovering over it. And the realisation then occurred that since the beginning of my walk I have not seen or heard a single bird. This actually made me stop and I looked up for a pair of colourful feathers.

But I could see none. It was almost six in the morning and the surrounding was as quiet as a graveyard. By the time I reached the bank of the Ganga I was in a deep thought about what was happening around me. The pavement of the bank seated men and women in large numbers washing their clothes and in some cases utensil in the “holy” waters of the river, as if it was some local pond and not one of the ancient symbol of our existence.

The sight was unbearable for someone who has worshipped that flowing water since childhood and so I turned back to return home. On my way home I was met with the scorching sun now well up on the sky as gone were those shady trees to give way for the four-lane street and by-standing buildings.
I stood there in the middle of the road sweating heavily and wondering what is going wrong. Why these drastic changes?. Then something inside me said these changes are not drastic. They have come slowly and eventually over decades.

The world I saw a few years back on my morning walk was also decaying and degrading. I didn’t realise it because I hadn’t seen a better world. Over these years things have only gone worse. The environment, which was fighting back the exploitation done on it by man till a few decades back is now losing the battle. Our world is dying and we are ourselves digging our own grave deeper and deeper with each passing day. If for once we stop participating in the rat race of materialism and feel the environmental changes around us we might get a chance to redeem some of the lost vitality.

Amrita Sarkar