Overflowing drainage, filthy lanes and littered streets are some of the common sights of contemporary Kashmir known for its Postcard-Perfect landscape. Behind the mounting muck and mess is the systemic failure and insensitivity towards environment.
Some time back I got a call from a close friend who works for an IT company outside Kashmir. Aware of my interest in photography, he wanted to know if I had any pictures that could provide a pictorial “summary of the beauty” of the place called Kashmir.
He needed the pictures for an assignment; his office had shortlisted him for an online skill development programme. The course required the participants, who came from varied backgrounds and diverse geographies, to also give a brief introduction – preferably supported by pictures – of the places to which they belonged in addition to personal information.
I told him that though landscape and nature photography had never been my priority, I would still scan my stock and see if something that met his requirements showed up.
What I came across during my search for a “summary” of Kashmir felt like a reality check, and a tough one at that.
I found ugly shots of the valley known for severe penalty for any filthy behaviour in past.
With time, however, as the cleaning-agents and eco-enforcers dwindled in numbers, the easy-going public disposal methods made muck of everything.
Such is the degree of insensitivity towards nature that lighting plastic waste right in the middle of the road is thought as the proper disposal — even if the bitter smoke it emanates chokes inmates inside residences. Not to mention the habitual garbage dumping into drains and blocking them with bottles and other waste materials.
Before this mindless behaviour, the ‘heaven’ was everyone’s favourite bedtime story for its glorious gone days. Travellers from all corners have been carrying “A Postcard from Paradise” to their parts of the world since time immemorial.
There’re legends of yore, and then there’s current shabby state of affairs where respect for surroundings and environment has gone for a toss.
The dwellers of this paradise have forgotten to handle it with care with time. The euphoria of having inherited lofty mountains, serene valleys, calm waters and other bounties that nature had to offer has apparently turned natives complacent and lazy.
A disturbing inertia has probably taken over, that stops people from realising that what they have been boasting about may not last long if they don’t change their ways.
It takes a collective call to strike a balance in things that affect us all. Mind specialists say that environment has a direct bearing on person’s behaviour and personality.
Now, imagine living in the messy and mucky surroundings for long! One may not realise it, but it does change something in us every day.
Ever wonder why some of us look numb and pokerfaced now?
We need to ask serious questions and work for their solutions. Playing indifferent won’t be helping our cause.
But again, the problem remains, we seem to have taken things for granted to such an extent that we fail to realise that even small acts of ours can have a large impact on the overall scheme of things when we talk of the big picture.
Our actions tend to suggest that we are not educated but just literate.
Walking a few steps to the nearest dustbin seems a big task for many, irrespective of who they are or where they stand in the social hierarchy.
This thoughtless treatment is tragic. While the custodians of vale aren’t thinking beyond the routine dusting and face-lifting exercises, natives are driven by the same old waste-disposal methods.
Taking care of the environment is both an individual and a collective responsibility. If we fail miserably at the individual level, what can be expected when it comes to the collective role of a community?
What makes matters even worse is an “Is it my responsibility alone” attitude.
It is often said that in any situation, one can either be a part of the problem or a part of the solution.
Unfortunately, when it comes to the paradise, problems outnumber solutions.
We have failed somewhere.
It is about time we do some soul-searching – both at the individual and at the collective level – about what went wrong where.
A time may come, sadly, when the paradise may not have anything to offer.
Postcards may well become a thing of the past.