I opened my eyes to see Buddha’s golden statue glint feebly in star light. It took me a moment to place myself and realise that I had been sleeping in a Monastery the whole night. The toil of the days cycling had anesthesized my wakefulness as soon as I lay down.
Once I awoke, I stepped outside the enclosure. There was not a single artificial light in the vicinity. I was in a remote part of the country, virtually untouched by light pollution.
I looked up, and heard a call,
Of countless clusters of stars , shining light years away, revealing themselves in the absence of moonlight.
Transfixed, I ogled as if I’d found a treasure all for myself.
I clicked many pictures with the lens of my eye, the shutter of my lashes.
I would not move an inch until the sun rose and claimed the sky for itself. A surreal experience from my last few days in Thailand.
A few days ago, I reached Kolkata, India.
I landed at 3am. I felt an excitement to witness the night sky again.
I quickly assembled my bicycle outside the airport and headed out excitedly, to embrace the sky.
But alas, the stars were all in hiding. Lights from sodium lamps blended with the haze in the sky to obscure the marvel of the milky way.
I waited patiently for the sunrise, hoping that it would be treat for the eyes.
But the haze in the sky casually relegated the majesty of the sun.
It was such a contrast to witness these two different night skies in two different realities.
I happened to read a newspaper article yesterday which threw light on the rising pollution in Indian cities that led to respiratory ailments in citizens. I imagined people would go to a doctor to ask for a medicine to help them cope and recover.
It felt as if we are trying to save ourselves from a world of our own making. And we are trying to solve our own individual problem with pollution and letting things be, as long as we can afford to brush the dirt under the carpet.
But what about the dirt in the sky?
One effect of technology on culture is that we do not look too far beyond. We have the world at a distance of half a feet, in the confines of our glowing smartphone screens. Much of our gaze never goes beyond this vantage, to look up and sense, that the we are deserting the sky, effacing a star from our view with each passing day.
While one can go to a doctor to find a cure for his own respiratory ailment,
Where do we go to find a cure for an ailment that inflicts our collective extended being, that includes our view of the night sky?
Maybe we need to rename the institutions that monitor how much further we can push our polluted existence.
Maybe we need a ‘Nightsky Saving Board’ than an ‘ Air Pollution Control Board.’
For we will be reminded of the problem at hand and have to look no further than the sky to realise our responsibility to act as windshield wipers for our dirty skyline.
Sometimes renaming can bring us closer to the reality we must collectively rise up to change.
The most severe of tragedies is when a tragedy becomes mundane and commonplace.
Let’s find a way,
So that our kids don’t get used to
A hazy sky,
A starless night.
The sky is feeling blue.
Let’s find a way to cheer it up !