If you are born in Delhi, you will have a different idea of the rivers. Let me see, you have dedh Yamuna, you know Ganga and you may know a few that flow through Ghaziabad. You may not have seen too many rivers and one in spate becomes a spectacle.
In a country that has a million rivers, it will be sad if you have seen so few. During a recent train journey to Bhubaneswar, I spotted countless rivers from the train. Only when we started crossing one every ten minutes, it struck me that I should be taking pictures. Never too late, there were still plenty to come.
It takes living with a river to realise that they are seasonal. In the hills, they flow in the summer, and in the plains, through the monsoons. But no matter if there was water or not, the river shaped etching on the earth would always remain. No one ever tried to fill them with sewage, but we have evolved now!
During the summers, when a river would dry up, it will always veer towards the banks, as if it knew where it was most needed.
In my village, there are two rivers on two sides. One was narrow, shallow and slow, the other was everything but. For us kids, adulthood arrived the day elders will ask us to accompany them to the bigger river. As it was, the smaller river was somehow reserved for women and children, an indicator of how the world worked.
Seeing the dry riverbeds on the way, it’s easy to feel distraught about the dry, sometimes rocky, sometimes sandy riverbeds. But it is unfair to asssume that the rivers are dying. Come monsoon, the rivers in these hinterlands undergo the same transformation that a bollywood hero does after taking off the glasses.
In the hierarchy of water bodies, the river was always considered as the elder brother. A pond needed to be cleaned and dredged. That used to be a festive day in the village. Select elders will get into the pond, first to clean and then to catch all the fish before the water was flushed out.
But a river? It took care of itself. And, of us. We knew our place in nature. We were not arrogant to think that we could be responsible for the hills, the mountains, the earth and its water. It’s bad manners when a guest starts to behave like the owner.
The new man and its pride in engineering has made it feel responsible for, and sadly capable of changing the earth and its elements. If the only way man will have the reverence for nature it once had is to lose its power, then I pray for it.