Calcutta is a crowded city. Its traffic jams, congested bazars and teeming streets are well known. An outsider, visiting Calcutta for a few days, normally does not have a good impression of the city. Naturally, when on promotion I was offered a posting in Calcutta, I was in a dilemma as I was very comfortably settled in Delhi. An early riser, I like to go either to play tennis or for a long walk in the morning, and in Delhi, I had good amenities for both. The tennis courts were at my doorstep and playing tennis had become a part of my routine. I was not sure of these facilities in Calcutta. Anyhow, considering all the pros and cons, I decided to accept the offer. All my family members also supported the decision, thus reducing my conflict to some extent.
My flat in Calcutta, though very comfortable, was located in a very busy area where it was difficult to find open spaces for morning walks. Though my tennis was arranged within a week of my shifting to Calcutta, I preferred occasional walking. On the very first day, I ventured out on a morning walk and took the direction suggested by the security staff of the building. After walking for about half a kilometre, the area opened out and I found a large number of morning walkers enjoying the fresh air. Soon after, I came across a big sarovar and learnt that it was the famous Rabindra Sarovar. On one side of this sarovar, there stretched a very good road with multi-story buildings all along, as well as a swimming and a rowing club. By all standards, it was a clean and developed area with no sign of the Calcutta crowd. The air was quite unpolluted and I was happy at the discovery of such an area which totally eliminated the conflict in my mind about my decision.
For a few days I tried several routes and soon established a pleasant walking route of about forty-five minutes which included a complete round of the sarovar. I followed this direction whenever I went for a morning walk and never felt the need for any change.
I am very contemplative during my walks and many subtle thoughts occupy my mind during this period, particularly, when I am alone. As mentioned earlier, on one side of the sarovar was a clean road lined by high-rise buildings. However, the opposite bank of the sarovar was a totally different picture. The road on that side was very pot-holed and dirty, and very few took this route. A number of people, including women and children, carried out their morning activities on that side of the sarovar, all of them being very poor. Whether they were bathing, washing clothes or utensils, brushing their teeth or excreting, they appeared to be in a state of bliss. They did not seem aware of the fact that the water being used by them was stagnant and its constant use was making it dirtier. Perhaps, they had been doing so for a long time, and the thought of infection or pollution was totally alien to them. I do not think it was easily possible to talk to them about this.
Well, leaving that job to the environmentalists and health workers, I looked at it from a different viewpoint. Here was a sarovar which faced conflicting scenes on its two sides. On one side there was a posh area where the residents tried their best to maintain cleanliness, while on the other side, people blissfully made the area dirtier. Between this conflict, the sarovar itself remained very neutral, allowing its use by the people, the way they did. It remained calm, serene and offered whatever nature ordained it to do. In other words, it was perfectly harmonious in a situation of total conflict.
We all often face such conflicts in life. Some people are happy to see our purity and help us to maintain or increase it, but others exploit us to the hilt and in the process, also try to drag us down. The people in the first category live for higher causes and do not want to hurt anyone or waste their time and energy in skirmishes with baser types. At times, the process is painful but they try to harmonise the two conflicting situations with the help of higher natural forces. Thus, they are able to maintain their harmony, notwithstanding the fact that many keep trying to disturb it.
This is what happened in the case of the sarovar, a symbol of detached high-mindedness. Despite being polluted by many, it maintained its purity. In this process, nature helped greatly as did those people who cared for its purity and cleanliness. Let us hope that this balance will be maintained and the sarovar will continue to remain pure, thus serving the needs of well-wishers as well as neutralising the depredations by exploiters.