I see them every morning. I am on my morning walk when I see them going around with their little plastic bags. I know they are ...errrr..pinching something. Some of them look faintly embarrassed, but mostly they are extremely nonchalant about the whole thing. Even the guards standing around do not deter them. Their reasoning – it is for God’s sake. What do they pinch? They take something that belongs to everyone. It is nature’s bounty that is meant to bring joy to all who see it. They steal flowers that grow within plucking distance. It does not matter whether the flowers are blooming in a public space like a garden or spilling over a private wall. If the flower is within reach, it is nipped off and put into the bag. Size, colour, fragrance, no bar! I am talking of the flowers that get offered to God. In fact, the more beautiful the bloom, the faster it disappears into the bag.
These individuals seem to believe in the free market philosophy, especially if the blooms happen to be in some public garden or common area. . The concept of ‘public property’ is completely lost on these people and should you ever broach the issue at a public place, they look astonished and even get offended and aggressive. Tell them that they could be hurting the plants and they are quick to say ‘mere ek ke todne se kya hoga’ implying that just one person cannot destroy the garden. They seem pained that you should stop them from making an offering to god, as if the phrase ‘Bhagwan ke liye’ meaning ‘it is for God’ should absolve them of all wrongs. Belligerently they enquire “Tumhara hai kya?” (Is it yours?). Some even offer you a part of the spoils in the belief that you are just feeling cheated about not getting the flowers yourself! Should you catch them in the act outside your private garden, they offer a weak smile along with explanations like ‘you could not have reached it from inside anyway’ or ‘you can spare one, after all it is going to God’ or ‘you too will get a share of the blessings’.
In large Indian cities most people consider themselves fortunate just to have a roof over their heads. Most of us do not have the luxury to look at the aesthetic value of the surroundings we hope to set up home in. It is very likely that the view from the window is just another building with the washing hung out to dry. It could as well be the train tracks or the corner grocery store. Given the way things are, I consider myself lucky to be living in a place which has well maintained gardens and public areas. In fact, this is one of the marketing USP highlighted to those who choose to live here. Yet, some the very same people who have bought homes based on all this are the ones who denude the plants. Dressed in track suits and walking shoes, armed with little bags, they begin the onslaught early in the morning. They are the very people who can tell you in detail about the beauty of the clean and pretty streets of Singapore they visited recently. They wax eloquent about the beautiful wild flowers that border the freeways in the USA. They discuss the beautifully maintained gardens in London. Raise the issue of the flowers in the local garden and they look surprised that you are unable to understand that their deep piety overrides petty concerns like beauty.
Plucking a few flowers may seem like a very insignificant issue, but in this world where the daily grind causes so much stress to everyone, a thing of beauty like a garden or even a few lovely flowers do bring a lot of joy. They often break some branches and trample on others in an effort to reach the best blooms. The gardens end up looking bare and maimed. Apart from doing away with the emotional advantage of surrounding oneself with a little beauty, even the practical benefits of having a few plants capable of cleaning up our air are diminished if not destroyed. It also sends out the messages that it is okay to take what is not ours and destroy pubic property while doing so.
I do not know how it works in other cities, but in the city of Pune, we can have flowers delivered to our doorstep at the crack of dawn. These flowers are specifically meant for ‘Pooja’. The best part is that they can be availed for as little as Rs.5 or Rs. 10 a day. This service also provides some employment. All those who want to invoke God’s blessings may do well to subscribe to this service.I hope that this Ganesh festival, people will be more careful. After all, shouldn’t you be offering what is actually yours, what you have some part of your earnings or energy on, in the first place? Especially if you believe that God created everything??
P.S. All the flowers in this post bloomed in my garden this week!!!