Whenever I witness instances of environment degradation and injustice, I want to stop and help set things right. Often I am forced, sadly, to look the other way
INSPITE OF FIVE-STAR HOTELS AND THEIR pernicious culture all over the place, there are still a few people who find solace in maintaining simple little hotels. Indeed so simple that the word hotel seems inappropriate. In terms of cleanliness these small havens match the five-star standards of hygiene. The only five-star amenities missing are the marble/granite look, the bath tub and of course air-conditioning. For people even slightly in sync with the environment, these luxuries are not important. In fact a well-designed room with cross ventilation offers the joy of being used with windows flung open to the breeze and the outdoors merging with interiors, an impossibility in closeted air-conditioned spaces. One such hotel just across the north-western creek in Mumbai is Manori-Bel where the mosquito menace has been dealt with simply by the oldest and probably the safest solution of mosquito nets. Simple solutions are best: I’ve slept on cow-dung floors with castor oil lamps lighting the night and not been disturbed by a single mosquito in mosquito-infested areas.
The simplicity, yet comfort and rural beauty of Manori-Bel is exceptional. The fanciest 5-star cannot offer a similar ambience. Besides its natural beauty, this little inn has maintained an old-world charm. There are no television sets or phones in the rooms and no calls entertained even at the reception. Of course the peace and quiet that was possible in this idyllic getaway has now been disturbed by the intrusion of mobile phones into our lives.
The other regulation at Manori-Bel that sets it apart is non-availability of food except at mealtimes. Lunch hour is strictly between 1-2 p.m and dinner is 8-9 p.m. There is a standard lunch and dinner menu; you either eat it or go hungry.
I’ve always felt that time spent here has been different from any other hotel because of its essential qualities which give the body, mind and digestive tract some rest. Lazing on a hammock or taking a walk on the beach, reading, ruminating or communicating with family or friends without distractions makes a Manori-Bel sojourn special. Its rudimentary ambience brings home the awareness about how little man needs to live a simple, happy life and how we invariably complicate and multiply our needs and lives.
ALTHOUGH MANORI-BEL IS ONE OF MY VERY favourite R&R (rest and recreation) retreats, I thought of it today only because of an incident I remembered long ago on my way to Manori. I was on the ferry that takes one from Madh island to Manori, a short ride of not more than ten minutes. During the trip, a fellow passenger opened her bag and started dumping one plastic bag after another into the already polluted creek. I always wonder at the aesthetic emotions, and lack of civic consciousness of such people.
Each plastic bag, on closer scrutiny, was filled with flowers, ash and leftovers of a puja. I wondered how she came to possess so many little bags obviously segregated for a reason. Did she participate in so many pujas or did she only possess small bags instead of one big one? I am sure God would rather have his disciples work hard and fulfil their duties towards their families than spend hours performing pujas, to the point that it becomes a preoccupation. And worse of all dumping the remains of the puja into a sea that does not need any waste material, however auspicious the event.
I wanted to tell this lady that the very least she could do was to open the plastic bags and dump only the flowers. I feel angry at myself for not speaking up there and then and letting it upset me then and thereafter.
But there is so much that one would like to point out and do that I feel that’s all I would be doing if I actually went about doing so. Everytime someone would throw garbage on the street, out from the train etc. I’d be admonishing them, everytime someone jumps a queue or indulges in street fighting, everytime a child is scolded or beaten, and whenever I witness environment degradation and injustice I want to stop and help set things right. Often I am forced, sadly, to look the other way. Then I wonder about life and its many complexities.
ALTHOUGH EVEN POLICIES ON WASTE MANAGEMENT and other such matters are affected by apathetic governments, still as citizens we cannot just wait for a more committed government to take heed, inspite of being representative of the people. The whole concept of land-fills, of garbage separation, hygiene, recycling and vermiculture, is something that has to begin at the policy level. But as individuals we cannot wait for official initiatives. We can begin by consciously refraining from creating excess garbage, by recycling as much as possible, by segregating garbage and keeping dangerous waste completely separate and most importantly by becoming aware of how all this affects our lives. From the chemicals used for dyeing our clothes to the pesticides used in our food, all these get leached into our streams and rivers and into the soil. Is it really worth wearing bright colours at such a cost? Is it really worth it to eat exotic food at the cost of one’s health?
During the approaching Ganesh chaturti festival crowds will immerse huge clay statues of Ganapathi and other gods into our seas and rivers. We need to do our bit to create awareness that it’s probably not what God wants us to do. Because eventually caring for our environment is as close to God as we can get. And rites and rituals can be ritualistically observed within limits and without polluting our water, air and earth. What use are our religious sentiments if they play havoc with the very earth that nurtures us?