Nagpur, in the exact centre of India, is the town I grew up in and left after finishing school. A shabby, unimpressive town then, in 2009, however, it earned an award as the greenest, cleanest city. I had to see it to believe it.
I could hardly believe my eyes – I looked around as we drove down beautiful roads, dark and smooth, lined on either side by old and newly planted trees. The dividers were covered with various hues of green, creepers, shrubs and flowering plants. The sidewalks were filled with brick-coloured soil and black-and-white painted edges. Delightfully clean – yes, not a piece of paper in sight.
The heritage buildings stood out majestically amidst the greenery – carefully and well maintained. The avenues were lined by tall old trees standing guard.
The mini-woods right in the heart of the city, lined with all the shopping kiosks, were a delight to behold as we drove to the fruit market. Neatly lined rows of fruit shops displaying fresh, luscious fruits and there was not a paper or fruit peel anywhere in sight. Even a wayside banana, guava and berry vendor requests you to throw your paper, peels, etc. into the bin. In the past, as I recall, we had had to tread carefully over the slippery mess.
The roads have been widened by removing encroachments, but the trees on the sides have been saved by laying/building roads alongside and around them.
Nagpurians are cooperating wholeheartedly in this beautiful exercise. Segregation of garbage and its regular collection are in force. You follow the rules or pay a fine.
And guess who is responsible for this long-awaited, much needed change? Of course, the Nagpurians themselves, but because of the bold implementation by the Municipal Commissioner. Chandrashekhar, who went about his work steadily, speedily, single-mindedly and in just 3 years had Nagpur win a deserving award as a green, clean city. To tackle the perennial task of removing hutments and encroachments, he held meetings involving the dwellers. Together they identified suitable alternative locations keeping in mind their struggle for life. If there were pockets of resistance even after this, he went ahead and overnight removed them.
A firm, strong will, a sense of duty and an excellent, aesthetic sense, helped achieve the seemingly impossible task.
Chennai can do it too.
Shobha V. Manickam
Athithi Devo Bhava
Mr. D. Srinivasan’s observa-tions (MM January 16th) on common crow are particularly interesting. Once upon a time, the Badagas of Niligiris believed that the crows acted as messengers between the people of this world and that of the nether domains. As time went on, the crows turned out to be carrying tales between the living and the dead and life in both the domains became miserable. Their god then became furious and pulled out the tongues of the crows. Since that time the crows started only to caw. A Badaga ballad containing this legend (parts of it) has now become lost to the vagaries of what anthropologists would call “the structural amnesia” of this ancient society. But no wonder, the crows are still looked upon to feed the ancestral spirits at least in a ritual sense, among many a folk. The lexical association between human ‘calling’ and crows’s ‘cawing’ in Dravidian philology is also to be noted here. Actually speaking, when the crows caw from our roof tops, we are to treat them as our guests – Atithi Devo Bhava!
Rev. Philip K. Mulley
St. John’s Church, Mount Road
Coonoor, The Nigiris 643 102
Views from Vietnam
MMM has very humorously described in detail the ‘ways’ of the music buff.
On the roadside temples, there is more than what meets the eye in the multiplying of anthills/snakepits which turn into holy shrines and block the smallest of roads. Anything being done about that by the authorities?
On the article on crows, I haven’t found a single one of the species here in Vietnam, though sparrows are in plenty. A few even fly into my house and rest for a while on my sofa!
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
I saw the letter under the title ‘Athithi Devo Bhava’ by reader D. Srinivasan (MM, January 16th).
It is true that crows are a class by themselves and the caw by a crow not only indicates the arrival of guests but it has also a specific significance.
I have noticed the crows and their behaviour for several years. Whenever we leave food outside our house for them, the first thing it does is to call all its friends by cawing resulting in batches of crows landing nearby to share the food. The crow has never been selfish.
Further, the crow has an excellent memory. My clerk has a house in the suburban Pammal where the crow has kept a nest on the top of the balcony. It recognises people easily and strikes when unknown persons come nearby. My clerk’s brother and son who always frequent the balcony are not taken notice of, but when my clerk recently went there for the first time, the crow became angry and pecked on his head causing injury which is yet to heal.
In my office, everyday at 1.30 pm one crow comes near the window and caws for food, if not already kept outside the window, and leaves only after eating it.
C. Lakshmi Narain
4, Kondi Chetty street
Chennai 600 001
It was fascinating to read D. Srinivasan’s letter on winged guests (MM, January 16th). It makes one rue the fact that crows haven’t got their due share of credit.
I have a magnificent laburnum tree overhanging my kitchen window. I receive a steady stream of ravenous squirrels and crows the minute I throw my window open at 6 a.m. Often, it is delightful to be greeted by a pair of inquisitive eyes that seem to chasten “Whatever took you so long to wake up”!
One elderly crow, a regular visitor, quietly perches and awaits his due. He scorns all offers of bread, considering them unworthy of satiating his appetite. After a couple of gentle caws to remind me that I’ve kept him waiting, he condescends to accept the cream cookie my daughter hands out to him. He is equally appreciative of Kellog’s cornflakes, a blue-blooded crow indeed! A crafty fellow, he gathers everything I scatter in one go, ensuring his mates have not so much as a tit-bit!
What foibles do animals share with us humans! It brings to mind Thoreau’s words: “I once had a sparrow alight upon my shoulder for a moment, and I felt that I was more distinguished by that circumstance than I should have been by any epaulet I could have worn.”
5/3, III Cross Ormes Road
Chennai 600 010
Instead of well-established street names with historical connotation, why cannot the authorities scan the city landscape and look for and change offensive names like Kolaikaranpettai and Kallukaran Street, commemorating a murderer and drunkard, respectively! Or, for that matter, obsolete ones like Vannanthurai or its anglicised version across the city, Washermanpet?
Plot 456, II Link Road
Sadashiv Nagar, Chennai 600 091
In MMM’s ‘Short N Snappy’ column last fortnight, its main headline should have read ‘Singapore Forsooth’, and not as published, for which Printers’ Devil is to be blamed for confusing our readers. The error is regretted.
– The Editor