A note on my three blogs

A note on my blogs

(1) vio; in love with india - this one is the main blog about my Indian adventures, which started in 2005. I don't write much on this blog these days because I prefer to write privately in the confidential blog. But check out the categories and the index to figure out your way. I have kept some older posts not about India but which I still find interesting or relevant in Old words. Also check out my new, fun category Only in India in which I post photos of funny, unique, Indian situations...

(2) vio; sounds of india - this is my blog of sounds, because India wouldn't be as incredible if it was not so vibrant and just so full of incredible sounds!

(3) vio; confidential - this an extension of my main blog in which I post entries I do not want to reveal to the entire webspace for privacy or sensitivity reasons. You must receive an invitation from me and then accept the invitation to be able to read it. You may email me if you are interested in receiving an invitation.


Thursday, 28 January 2016

"Be the change you want to see in the world"!...

Long time no blog, yet again! But today I have a lot of energy to write!

Back in November, our German friend Pia from the Blue Bank association was in Khajuraho for about 3 weeks. She has been coming regularly for the past six years to promote ecological awareness through art. I had never been in Khajuraho at the same time as her until this season, so this time I was glad to be present and to see it for myself. It was interesting. The same locals get involved in her actions every year, and she attracts crowds of children because she organises programmes in which she gets them to draw postcards to send to her friends in Germany and in Africa, and of course she has snacks and sweets to distribute at the end. Vijay is always the main organiser of such events. This year she also presented her own nature-related painting to the children, and one of the local adults told a story to the children, to try and raise their awareness about ecology. It was for such an event that I played violin back in June 2014 (although Pia wasn't there at the time). For last Diwali, on 11 November 2015, again she organised a similar action, and I played a little violin concert with my student Udit by the Brahma Temple.

After the event she started talking about gathering some locals to clean the area around the temple and what we could reach of the lake around it - all in front of our house. Now, I had been dreaming of such a thing for years, but feeling completely powerless about it... "Why don't we organise this before you go?" I asked. And so we did, on the following Sunday. I was really excited. Vijay went to buy a bin that we have since then been keeping in front of our house. Quite a few people gathered, and we filled about 5 big bags with all sorts of litter. Everyone had a lot of energy, and it was really nice to work all together for a noble cause. This was possible also because (I forgot to mention) a rubbish collector has been passing our house regularly since about September - an amazing piece of news for me, as from then on we wouldn't have to throw our own rubbish in the lake behind the temple (for lack of anywhere else to throw it)!!! So after we had picked all the rubbish, the collector passed by and we gave him the five bags... In the end, Vijay went to buy some water nuts for all the hard workers and we all ate them happily.

This action was a kick start for me, as it really motivated me to carry on. I designed an explanatory poster not only in English, but also in Hindi, so that it would also make sense to the local population. The objective was to build a board and plant it next to the Brahma Temple, to raise our community's awareness about the project. On our Friends in Khajuraho homestay's website, I added a section in our menu about our new eco-friendly promise, and on our Facebook page I added a mention and photo gallery of the same. And our group of locals agreed that we would carry on cleaning every Sunday...

On the following Sunday I was the only one to do any cleaning, but I filled our entire bin nonetheless. Since then, I have been cleaning the area around the temple on my own, once in a while, when I felt it was necessary... The board hasn't seen the day yet, but I am determined that it will... Of course, no-one from our gathering has ever turned up on a Sunday to clean because keeping everyone motivated does take time, but I will keep doing it to show them all, and hopefully things will grow from there...? I feel so lucky and blessed to live on such a beautiful, historical, UNESCO-protected site, that I do want to do something! The Brahma Temple is the most ancient of all the famous Khajuraho temples, and it stands there, right in front of our house!

About two months after the Blue Bank action took place, some more great news broke out: The Brahma Temple, which up to then had always been closed to the public except for maybe two days per year, was now going to be open for visitors. And along with this a guard had been assigned to sit by the temple everyday - with the duty to broom the platform around the temple regularly! I was so happy to hear this! So since then, the platform itself has been clean at all times. I guess I should mention here that the main items of rubbish gathering around the temple are all the small individual sachets of betel nuts and/or tobacco or whatever mouth fresheners, which men sitting by the temple doing nothing throw as they chew everyday. That and packets of crisps or spicy snacks or whatever. So the temple platform is now clean all the time; however, where has the guard been brooming all the aforementioned rubbish into? Just a few meters down of course... Down the steps of the temple platform and around, into the sloping ground that descends to the lake, into the lake, etc...

This morning the gathering litter was just too much for me to see, and I hadn't done any cleaning for a while. I had not yet had my shower, so I set up for the task with my little bin, crossing the road every time it was full to empty it into our big bin... Whenever I start, I have to say it's difficult for me to stop, because it just never ends, and I have a hard time stopping any unfinished job! I dug many sachets and plastic bags out - really, you don't realise how much crap goes down and down into our poor soils until you try and clean it yourself! Besides, doing this in front of the passing locals gives me tremendous energy to carry on, because I love to give an example and (perhaps) make them think! "Be the change you want to see in the world", as the great Mahatma Gandhi of India famously said! And so I cleaned the entire lawn on the right of the temple and around the Blue Bank's blue bench and statue (Pia got these designed a few years ago as part of her awareness action), the beginning of the sloping ground as far as I could reach it, the ground down the steps and to the left side of the temple platform (all this with body awareness to spare my 7-month pregnant belly, of course... :-)

Soon after I had started working, the guard started brooming around the temple, and so I cheekily remarked that although the platform was clean, his brooming didn't help much if the rubbish was thrown down a few steps away. He did tell me that "someone" (from the municipality?) was going to do something about it later on. I guess he just told me what I want to hear but let's see... Some passers-by always stop and comment as I clean because I think it's odd for them to see a white person dare put her hands in "shit", accepting to become an untouchable perhaps (I have to shower and clean all my clothes to be allowed back in the house afterwards - but don't worry, I do it whole-heartily at that point!) Quite a lot of passers-by stopped by and more of them showed an interested in what I was doing today. One woman asked me what I was doing, really sounding puzzled. As she passed by, with eagerness and positivity in my voice (I hope!) I answered "I'm cleaning! All this plastic is harming our earth!" and then as she took some distance, I shouted "Our earth is our God, we shouldn't spoil it!" Two women from our neighbours' house whom I know quite well passed by, too, and one of them made a remark about what I was doing. I exclaimed "All that plastic you see, it goes into the land. Then it goes into the plants. And we eat the plants! Do you want to eat plastic? then litter away!" - "That's right!" she answered. But the best was that kid.

A boy approached the lake with a couple of friends; they must have been 13 or so. He had a small polythene bag full of stuff in his hand and I knew full well what it was, and what he had come to do with it. After pujas (religious ceremonies), Hindus don't throw the items they have used into an ordinary bin but into water, the idea being that the ingredients return into the earth. I think another reason is that all the items have become sacred to the Hindus' eyes, and so they can't just throw it away like ordinary rubbish. In older days it was not a problem because all these items used to be natural and biodegradable, such as paan leaves, raw rice and turmeric powder, incense, etc. (for a list of common elements used for rituals, click here). Today however, this practice is a disaster, because many harmful items - especially plastic - are thrown into rivers and lakes... And whenever I see a local throw a plastic bag full into the lake in front of our house, my stomach turns. This is what the boy had come to do, obviously. As I looked at his bag the only item I saw sticking out was a big paan leaf. "Don't throw this into the lake!" I exclaimed to the boy. "But it's puja stuff!" he replied. "So throw the stuff into the water, but please don't throw the plastic bag; it harms the environment!" The boy walked a little further near the pipal tree, and I saw him emptying the bag into the water. I was thrilled as I saw that he didn't throw the bag! Then he came back to me, I told him to throw the polythene in our bin and he did so. "Thank you! Thank you!" I exclaimed profusely. I truly felt like it was a little victory...