The winding road uphill was a dream.
Uniform pavements, well maintained side bars, towards the valley – a precautionary measure for the walkers.
Our day had started quite early, even before the sun had made its presence felt at the horizon. Now, it was just past midday and we were very near our destination.
Contrary to the usual impatience towards the end of any journey, this last leg was proving to be extremely relaxing, taking away any trace of tiredness we might have suffered, as we scaled the dust, noise, pollution, free road.
We were on our way to India’s, one of the most visited places but as our compact car cruised along the perfectly maintained tar road, it seemed to me, no feet had walked this road for years.
That’s not the truth, Mind it!
I was on my way to South India’s most popular Balaji temple and we were travelling from the town of Tirupati to Thirumala, the high hill where the temple is located.
This road was treacherous like many we might have travelled while travelling to a hilly area, but I was happily surprised to see ornamental and wild plants growing on the vertical rock walls.
For those, who have not been to this place, or are not acquainted with the geographical details, the temple is located high on the hill, the roads are made by cutting the mountain.
The plants are growing in the small amounts of soil present between the rocks, the rocks laid by man or nature. The naturally growing plants or those planted by man hold the soil tightly and are natural rockslides preventive measures. For added protection, thick rope nets have been put up to hold back any loose pieces.
I was delighted with the dust free road and these thoughtful arrangements by the Governing and regulatory body in this area.
Everyone is aware of the insane amount of donations this particular temple in India receives, but for the first time I was witnessing Public money being respected and being used to provide the best possible services and safety.
My amazed journey was not restricted to this, the actual town of Thirumala was a page I had never visited in the book of India. The feeling of a tiny sleepy town, “feeling of sleepy” because you can guess at the traffic there, it is one of the most visited destination, but the small town is quiet, in spite of so many vehicles reaching there every hour.
The town has been planned around the temple. There is minimum number of commercial establishments here, or for that matter, even residence.
There are vast open areas for vehicle parking, and believe me, every slot gets occupied. At every 100 meters you find stationary or mobile public restrooms. More than the available eateries! Despite these public toilets present everywhere, there was no stink, and I have a sensitive nose!
Compared to cities I have visited, I found this place 9.5 out of 10 in cleanliness. (Indian Standards)
Cleanliness, next to Godliness, finally the adage had been understood, and by the grace of this popular God, it was being practiced, and how!!!
I was really pleased with the Government’s and the regulatory body’s efforts, India does have hope.
Delighted, I was looking forward to thanking God for my personal and national blessings.
When you enter the actual temple premises, pilgrims have to take a long route, spend hours in waiting halls to actually get a passing glimpse of the deity.
All in good faith, we embarked on this long route, where devotees walked few kilometres to travel a distance of couple of yards, over approximately 3-18 hours or more depending on the amount you paid, bigger the amount, lesser the time for God to beckon you.
Our long journey was anticipated. We were fully aware, and accepted the fact that the Lord doesn’t grant his ‘Darshan’ unless you work hard for it and prove your deserts.
The crowd had formed three or four queues, depending on the space available at each phase of the route. Thankfully, I had managed to find space in the side queue, which allowed a refreshing view of the immaculately kept gardens.
Close to nature, pureness, cleanliness, closer to God we snail paced the long hallways. Nearer to the railings I was able to receive air that was fresh and heavily chlorinated (due to bleaching powder sprinkled to prevent growth of moss.)
With time and distance, I came to value my position in the crowd walking as I was at the open end. With my progress, I was quickly tumbling down from my “cleanliness high”. The descent began, when an uncle on my right emptied a packet of supari in his mouth and the empty packet fluttered off his fingers, losing itself under the feet of the chanting crowd.
As I watched the sun disappearing at the horizon, my ‘hopes’ were fading with it. Right there, in the crowded hallway, so near the place of worship were strewn plastic bottles, urine soaked diapers, chips’ packets, someone had spilled juice or water, leading into a muddy, sticky puddle. As we were barefoot, soon our feet had turned slippery, I would have tumbled a number of times, but for the lack of space to do so.
All of a sudden, our group was diverted to a huge waiting hall, with rows of benches, on stairs. We were to wait here, until the authorities decided we could meet the lord.
Slowed by our toddlers, we failed to get a seat, to give rest to our, unaccustomed to standing for long hours, backs. We decided to occupy the first stairs where there was no bench.
10 minutes on, right over my head, a window counter, opened. People rushed to it, disregarding our presence there, with two napping kids on our laps.
Irritated, I pointed at six of us. Some of the crowd retreated, while the rest chose to ignore. We had to hazard spilling liquids and other eatables, it had been a long day and we were tired.
I might have dozed off, for when I woke up, the place around me was littered with small empty plastic packets in which peanuts and roasted grams were sold.
In spite of my slumber, I knew the contents of those packets, because, the devotees snoring on the bench behind and just above us, had rubbed off their dry skins to avoid stomach upset, allowing them to fall on us, on the ground and to discover their own course.
My cleanliness high had reached an all-time low, made to sit among those shavings and leftovers.
No matter who tries, the trust, the regulatory bodies or the Government; I decided, in India even Godliness could not inspire cleanliness.
High hopes Mr. PM!!!
P.S: The post is not just to point out the discomfort we cause our fellow citizens. I also wish to highlight, tax paid by the people, for the convenience of the tax paying people is, jeopardized by insensitive-ness of tax payers. What will the Government do?