Sunday, May 22, 2005

Once there was a river...

Once there was a river, a mighty river that flowed. Its sparkling water hosted elephants and humans alike. Boats were needed to cross the river. The vast sand bed beside the river was a great place to play for the children from the nearby areas. I know it because I used to go the Periyar river near Thottuva in Kerala almost every vacation. It was one of the outings I looked forward to.

One vacation, en route to the river, all I could see was a long length of trucks that waited to load sand. That year the sand had reduced.
Each progressive year, sand reduced and so did the river. First from the surrounding areas, then from the river itself, they drew sand truck by relentless truck, until the mighty river was reduced to a sad stream.

Leave alone elephants, not even humans could have a bath in it. The humans who wanted to bathe in it, now cartwheeled in it so that they could bathe in the now, ankle deep water. The boatman now used his boat to ferry the sand dredgers to some further point so that they could kill the river a little more. Most of the river was dangerous to cross by foot since there was no sand beneath and it could be one of those places where sand had been dredged/mined from way down. It was one of my last visits to the river, since the river almost did not exist. On visits after that I never went near the river side since it was sad seeing the once mighty river reduced to a shrivelled image of itself.

The building boom, Gulf money and perhaps everything else to be constructed demanded sand. The river was an easy source. In Gods own country, rivers are fast becoming extinct. I was reminded of this incident of many years ago, when I came across Kannadi (malayalam for mirror)- one of those informative programs in Asianet -a Malayalam channel. They showed a piece about a river that ceased to exist and how wells are being dug along the old river channel (there is no river, only a bed) to search for pure water. Sand dredgers are having a good time even without the river, because digging up these wells, throws up, what else, but sand.

First they sought sand in the river, now they seek the river in the sand.

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