Pachamamma in our midst

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Here is where I used to live before the road became noisy and polluted. The beautiful park still stands, conserved by neglect as are many small enclaves of wilderness interspersed between increasingly packed urban development . . . urban development is on the rage these days while infrastructure particularly drainage remains non-existent. (There was a huge fight in our village this morning about some household drainage issue – it continued for hours, sounded like they were going to kill each other, many voices too; from my perspective the villagers shouldn’t be responsible for such matters of civic concern: this is the government’s job, but that’s a foreign perspective.)

Infrastructure or not, hopefully the future here holds an exquisitely beautiful hill with skirts of wilderness surrounded by a town; a town with a wild hill in the middle. I am happy to notice that the present Forestry Department authorities persevere tenaciously in preserving the wilderness here in the centre because the human world is sweeter when traces of the wild side of Pachamamma cohabit with us.

Except mostly for properties somehow secured by rich people and encroachments likewise by poor people, with dribs and drabs of suburb on the town side, the hill-round roadway encloses the hill wilderness supposedly for posterity. Near to the enlightenment of ashram is parkland conserved by ecological consciousness and several respectable compounds bought and planted long ago by devotees that lend to the green of this side of town. But in between the increasingly packed-in, built-up, multi-coloured motley of dwellings particularly on this side of town, Pachamamma’s wild side peaks through. Look:

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The Spectator has been here for many, many years.
The Spectator has been here for many, many years.
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I’ve been hoping forty years that these two sweet graves would not be overtaken by progress; this entire area was a graveyard previously. After The body of Ramana’s mother was buried on the hill side of the road opposite here, Ramana lingered so long in the graveyard that eventually devotees built the first ashram dwellings nearby, which became Sri Ramanasramam.
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This mother has to carry water in big pots from the communal Sentax water tank on the roadside; she stores a convenient quantity in the big blue drum from where it is accessed for kitchen and bathroom; laundry tasks are carried our here where used water feeds botanical cohabitants.
This mother has walked a few hundred metres from her home to enjoy doing her washing on the hillside in this ancient tank.
This mother has walked a few hundred metres from her home to enjoy doing her washing on the hillside in this ancient tank.
The British reported that Indian women tried to break rocks with shirts.
The British reported that Indian women tried to break rocks with shirts.
The houses in this street back on to an old water tank now in disuse because the Inflow channels fed by hill streams are now cut off by development.
The houses in this street back on to an old water tank now in disuse because the Inflow channels fed by hill streams are now cut off by development.

You see in place of the wall-to-wall concrete with not a turd in sight –  which is the heart and soul and safety of the middle-class ideal of Developmentji, here in underdeveloped poverty with untamed Pachamamma poking her nose over your boundary fence you are bathed in the generosity of the interplay of light and shadow and the priceless luxury of night-birds singing nearby in early hours, the little lizards doing push-ups, monkeys meditating in the noon heat and yes: here too are the scorpions and even you might be honoured by the presence of a King Cobra who will warn you respectfully in advance so don’t muck with this. It all depends on how you see it, naturally, but if open and alive and awake to this marvellous world you might be filled with nourishing gratitude for the many noble advantages of infrastructure’s absence, indeed you may.

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So although – depending on aesthetic sensitivities – lack of civil infrastructure may not be a great disadvantage, nevertheless the riverlet roads of a robust monsoon, the infamous Power-Cuts and the long lines of women waiting with pots for the municipal water supply in heavy summers does contrast negatively with wall-to-wall-concrete and uninterrupted power and water supplies of the Developed world like where I come from, certainly. The major contributor to the nightmare aspects of KaliYuga is Imbalance: in the context of this particular issue what is relevant is the economic inequalities of nations.

Although the people and animals here all appear to thrive on poisons, the wilderness tends to be clean and natural – no artificial colours and flavours here, thank the great goodness, unless of course substantial quantities of human garbage has been dumped.

And in India there are still many birds despite the sad fact that the variety in species here has decimated dramatically during the period of my familiarity with this place, probably due more to urbanisation, pollution and climatic factors rather than direct human destruction; in the Botanical Kingdom however, the story is more intimate.

In the period since first posting this section I have become motivated to spell out one aspect of the dark side of the local unsophisticated – in other words uneducated, superstitious culture in relation to the Botanical Kingdom. Over many years engagement on reforestation I have witnessed what amounts to me to ignorant evil in this regard, and recently the phenomena has intruded into my own living space.

Recently while I was in Australia, the son of the family downstairs cut down three beautiful trees that have for more than a decade shaded and beautified both his, his family’s and my living space; he cut down fifteen to twenty year old trees: in two cases rather than bother with cutting branches clear of electricity wires and in the other case the excuse was to stop monkeys climbing up on to the roof where I live (although they don’t bother me) by way of a SeethaParam tree; they now climb up the water pipes which is not at all good news for the LandLord responsible, not at all but he probably hasn’t even noticed.

The family - particularly the son - has now  embarked on an extended season of violent altercations with this and the other two trees.  For no good reason.  And the house will continue to be much less user-friendly.
The family – particularly the son – has now embarked on an extended season of violent altercations with this and the other two trees. For no good reason. And the house will continue to be much less user-friendly.

What he left are now sprouting stumps which will greatly inconvenience the human use of the very limited space surrounding this house as well as increase the absence of restorative shade on the house which will greatly increase the temperature in an already increasingly very hot climate. The absentee father of this family has good common sense but the son doesn’t; naturally he didn’t bother doing any thinking about what he was doing since this is not a thinking culture, remember.

Until now, mentioning this would be an isolated aberration such as Australia’s PM recently talking local government housekeeping at the prestigious G20 conference, if it weren’t for yesterday’s dramatic addition to evidence for impoverished, uneducated barbarity next door to my room.

Remember the shady protection of the matriarchal Banyan tree for the house next-door and the monkey family in the post about the Monsoon? Well the day before yesterday the mother of the family who owns (but does not live in) this house, spent a good hour cleaning the plastic Sentax water tank on the roof while observed by her big strong son and husband.   The monkeys had been drinking for two months from the tank that I know of, since the tank top was left open all that time. Yesterday they discovered this; in response first Father stood up on the wall and hacked the Banyan tree for all he is worth, then his younger son climbed the tree and hacked away higher.

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They both hacked with all their might and made a terrific mess.  The father is a simple village man extremely proud to be Green; he is the caretaker of a Restawhile Park on the pradakshina road. He and the son did their hacking with a Tamilian machete; you’d imagine he would have better tools but no, he wouldn’t. Over-doing it by brutally hacking far too much from trees is the ubiquitous Tamilian method of trimming or clearing branches – Highways Department simply hacks with a JCB.

Consideration for members of the Botanical Kingdom for their own sake is a middle-class WooWooWorld orientation on life.

Don’t for a second doubt that I greatly prefer it.

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