26 May A journey to remember
Junior school has pledged a committment to this remarkable community and environment in which we all live. The first in our series of three reports is from a Grade 4 environmental journey to Sirkhanda. Teacher Sue Rollins and her fourth graders have written the report below on how they are educating a community piece by piece.
Ring ring! The bells sounded loud and clear alerting the gods of our presence on the hill. We stopped to buy some prasad to offer to the gods at the Sirkhanda Devi temple at the very top of the hill and then headed up the steep path armed with garbage bags and plastic gloves. The sky was blue and the mountains were robed in their greenest finery. The view down to the river valley below spread out before us in all of its splendour.
Sadly the view along the path was less than attractive. Everywhere we looked we were struck by garbage scattered here and there; kukure packets, chips, fruity boxes, plastic bottles, tin cans, paper plates, and discarded clothing and shoes. We even found a few dirty diapers. What a contrast to the amazing view the other direction. How could we possibly pick it all up? We looked at the bags, we looked at each other and we put on our gloves.
The answer was one piece at a time! We began the tedious task of picking up all of this rubbish and putting it into big black garbage bags. We started with great enthusiasm but our backs soon began to ache and we wondered why people couldn’t be bothered to carry their own garbage out. At a local teashop we stopped to refresh ourselves with a cool cold drink and had a chat with the tea shop owner about the amazing amount of garbage around his shop.
We discussed the importance of being sure to carry out all garbage that you carry in or we will soon have a mountain side that will look like a pig sty. Back at school we had made several posters with advice written on them about being sure not to litter. We taped all sorts of garbage onto it with the hope of attracting people’s attention as they walked by.
We asked the tea shop owner if it would be OK if we put one of these up on his shop to remind his customers to not only buy things, but to remember to carry their garbage out and not throw it on the ground. He gladly agreed and together we stuck it to his wall. Leaving one full bag of garbage there to collect on our way down we headed on up the hill collecting garbage as we went.
We met a middle aged man on his way down who was very impressed with our efforts and chatted with us for a bit about our cause. He was very impressed and said the gods would bless us for our efforts. An old lady saw what we were doing and began picking up garbage as well helping us to fill our bag. We plodded on leaving a trail of filled garbage bags, posters and people that we had shared our thoughts with.
At the top the view of the snows was spectacular. We sat for a while enjoying God’s creation and then moved on to see the beautiful new temple in honour of the goddess Parbati. Parbati is the wife of Shiva. As the story goes her father did not approve of him and she had to say that she could no longer be with him. In a rage Shiva began to strike out at everything in his way. Vishnu in an effort to stop him cut Parbati into many pieces and threw the pieces around the world. The story says that her head fell at the Sirkhanda Devi temple. People filed in to present their offerings to her, puffed rice, incense, red pieces of cloth and coconuts. Such devotion! With this great love you would think that people would respect the temple and the grounds more. What makes it so difficult to carry our own garbage out? Do we really not see the mess? The two pictures made no sense.
Finding a spot with a good view of the valley below we ate our lunch and marvelled at the huge amount of garbage we had managed to collect. We were ever so careful to put all of our lunch wrappings back into our back pack, very aware of the amazing amount of work it is when people are careless with their litter! Checking around us for anything we might have accidently dropped, we headed back to the temple gate where the last of our big garbage bags lay.
Picking it up we quickly realised that all this garbage was going to be way too heavy to carry down the mountain. This was only one bag and we could hardly carry it and there were four more waiting for us on our way down the mountain. What to do? We looked around for possible solutions to our problem and saw two horsemen just taking leave of their customers. They agreed to carry our garbage down for a price. It seemed a bit ironic to be paying to have garbage hauled off the mountain that people could more easily have carried down themselves for free. We thought about this as we walked down. The path looked so much cleaner now with no litter along the sides of the road. We stopped to admire our posters along the way proud of the number of people our message would reach. We sent up a little prayer that people would take us seriously and help us with our cause.
At the bottom we thanked the horsemen and piled the bags into the taxi. On the long drive back to Mussoorie we contemplated all that had happened. How can we help the garbage problem? It suddenly brought to life all that we had studied about reducing the amount of garbage we use, re-using any garbage that we can use for something else and recycling anything that we must throw away. Above all we vowed never to throw our trash carelessly on the ground again.