Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Currying Favor with Mother Nature

     This 'pun for every post title' is proving to be more trouble than it's worth, but I'm gonna keep it going for as long as I can...

     I’m in the middle of my second week of classes and things are still going really well here.  There are a lot of things I’ve been meaning to blog about, but I can only cover one thing at a time so this post is about the country’s treatment of nature.  I’m adding irrelevant photos throughout the post, just because.

Taken at the village we visited near Durshet
     One really endearing quality of India is its love of nature.  I think this comes from the ideals of the Eastern religions that are popular here, such as Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism.  It can be hard to notice the country’s appreciation of nature in a city as busy and polluted as Pune, but there are a few things that have really stood out to me.  First, most of the trees I’ve seen in India are painted with red and white paint at the bottom of the trunk.  This means that the tree and all of its branches cannot be cut down or trimmed unless the government gives permission to do so.  The impact of this law is clear to me every time I walk around the Fergusson College campus.  That’s because a solid green wall/fence has been built around the college’s campus, but at one point in the fence there are two large holes to accommodate a curved branch.  This branch sticks right out into the sidewalk and then moves its way back through the second hole in the wall.  It’s kind of funny to see a large protective barrier modified so that it doesn’t interfere with the growth of one tree branch.  I can only assume that this is the result of India’s (apparently very serious) stance on the preservation of trees.

A tree outside my room in Durshet
     I also noticed the country’s respect for nature when I was reading The Times of India.  There was an article about how Serena Williams didn’t like to play night matches because the mosquitoes bothered her.  The paper asked Indian citizens what they thought of her complaints.  These are some of their responses:

“We Indians are born to love nature. And it's not in every match that insects come to encourage us! We should respect their presence. I often ask the out-fielders to not step on these harmless creatures. I ask them to drop the bugs outside the boundary”

“I never faced any difficulty playing even when they went around all guns blazing. See, by playing under lights, which attract them, we are entering their domain. So why hate them?"

“I was really touched when Shahid Afridi got a match stopped to lift an insect from the pitch, and with great respect, handed it over to the out-field keeper. This is what I call real sportsmanship. Though insects give us a hard time as they make the field slippery, we have to live with it”

     I was honestly expecting people to call Williams a diva or focus on the privileged life of sports stars.  Instead, everyone seemed to be fixated on the well-being of these bugs!  I thought this was a great example of the country’s reverence for nature.  

(Also, most of the restaurants here are vegetarian, but I think that’s for a variety of reasons.)

One of the entries at the Empress Gardens flower show
     As much as India seems to love nature, the problem of trash in Pune is out of control.  There is litter everywhere!  One time my rickshaw driver pulled over to the side of the road so he could throw a big bag of trash over the bridge and into the Mula River.  Then he got back into the rickshaw like he had just taken care of any other chore.  A lot of people burn their trash on the side of the road, too.  To give you an idea of how common it is, I saw a trash fire that was lit inside the fire department’s garage.  I wonder if Pune’s status as a metropolis makes people treat it differently than they would “nature” in general.  Respect for nature is clearly a part of India’s culture, but for some reason its not observed in the city.  I’d like to learn more about why there doesn’t seem to be much respect for many public spaces here.

From the balcony at the Shanwarwada Palace

A chalk (I think) mural from outside the Chaturshrungi Temple

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