On Sao Joao, i.e. 24th June, I set my students the task of making a group presentation on the festival. All the groups made a brave attempt – but the main character was missing. There was no rain. Neither was there any rain last year. We may choose to ignore all this in our revelry but the writing is on the wall. Something drastic has happened to our weather system. We also know that many of our wells don’t have water and when they do it is contaminated.
In 1800 when the President of the USA wanted to buy out the Red Indians from their land, Chief Seattle of the Indians replied, ‘If we do not own the freshness of the air and the sparkle of the water, how can you buy them?’
We have read also that heavy rains have swept manganese from uncovered mining dumps into the waters of the Selaulim dam. The river Sal cries out for redemption. Tar balls curse our shores and seas. ‘The shining water that moves in the streams and rivers is not just water, but the blood of our ancesters,’ the Chief reminds us.
I feel like a fool these days taking my umbrella to work. It’s quite a feat to juggle my water bottle, my bag of books, my snack-box and my needless umbrella. I also feel a bit stupid reciting my rain poems when there is no rain. In an epic attempt to drum up some rain fever, Vasco Watch, our neighbourhood newspaper organized a programme called ‘Meghdoot’ last Sunday inspired by Kalidasa’s work where a cloud is entrusted to carry a message of love to a beloved. ‘YOU are the Cloud Messenger’was the inspiring slogan for the morning where children and parents downed deliciouspuri bhaji and then danced to feel-good music while the angry sea raged metres away.
So what did you do on the feast of San Joao? Did you go to a starred hotel and get wasted, grinding away for all you are worth? And did you splash in a private pool and invoke the blessings of St. John. Climate change induced by large scale hill-felling, and unplanned development is taking a toll on us. ‘The end of living, the beginning of survival,’ Chief Seattle said. ‘Faleam Khaim Mevonam’ as the San Joao song goes.
Let’s heed the VW call to be cloud messengers. Bring difference and change where we are. It may be very small but we can start. At my work place, on a rainy day, a number of wet umbrellas were kept on the floor at the entrance to the room where we sat. As each one stepped in, the sea of umbrellas virtually blocked the way for others. Mid-morning, the umbrellas were dry. Rather than wait for each person to appreciate the wisdom of folding their umbrellas I folded each of them and placed them on a side table. Seeing me do this people hastily came across and claimed their umbrellas. The way was cleared – remains so.
Pix source: 'Ode to Chief Seattle' by Jaune Quick-To-See Smith, gallerygraficas.com; Published in Gomantak Times Weekender St. Inez, Goa on Sunday 29 June 2014.