Every year during Ganesh Chaturthi, all of us take to social media to talk about how hypocritical we humans are for praying to an idol and then immersing it into water bodies, soon to be washed up on the shore.
We complain about the increased noise levels, while sitting safely inside our houses. We criticise the government for not doing enough. But the question is – what are we doing?
I was deeply moved by the sight of Plaster of Paris (PoP) idols of Lord Ganesha tainting the seashore of Juhu beach in 2014. I was motivated to push forth and do something to spread awareness about the issue of water pollution during the festival of Ganesh Utsav.
Over the next three years, I teamed up with my friends and began working on a music video to spread awareness about this issue. Rapper Saurabh Shetty, aka Mr Blaze, wrote an eye opening rap to let people know what happens after we immerse idols in our water bodies. The rap also features Ronit Sarkar, a singer songwriter.
A line from the song that hits the right spot, “Haath jodke pooja karte sar se leke pair tak, visarjan ke baad phir kyun aate apne pairo par.” (You worship me with folded hands from my head to my feet but why am I left lying at your feet after the visarjan?)
I am working on a documentary on the same topic to provide more insight to the subject. These are part of a YouTube project, “Cynical Cub”, that aims at spreading awareness about social and environmental issues through digital media.
It pushes for an optimistic approach to the issue, highlighting the solutions to prevent the degradation of our environment. I received immense support – the video is a combined effort of over 40 people who voluntarily helped to make it.
The message to everyone is to use eco-friendly idols, choose bucket immersions and artificial ponds as well as joining beach clean-ups.
A lot of organisations are initiating post visarjan beach clean-ups to stop harmful materials like PoP, plastic and thermocol from adding onto the 0.6 million tonnes of plastic waste that enters our oceans annually. The idea of the video is to bring more people to join these movements and experience the joy that comes with protecting the very nature that sustains us.
Sarkar urges, “This festive season, it’s on us to celebrate responsibly and it takes very little from us to make sure that we, and every other living being around us, aren’t negatively affected.”
The government has made many immersion tanks all around the city, but we the people need to make the decision to use them, instead of polluting natural water bodies. In a country where access to water is a huge problem, we need to be very careful of the resources we have been blessed with.
Aarti Kuber is the director at “The Circle”, a support group that addresses mental health and violence, based in Mumbai and Bangalore.