Shillong’s Pink Festival
The Cherry Blossom Festival has brought back some cheer in the city. The Ward’s Lake adorns a pink look with pink balloons, pink umbrellas, ribbons et al. What is also very striking is that there are serious attempts to keep the Lake ecologically sound by frisking people at the entrance. Visitors are told to deposit cigarettes, plastic water bottles at a certain counter and to take them back with them on exiting the venue. This is most encouraging and a very ecologically sound practice. The Lake looked spick and span and had volunteers everywhere that kept a strict eye on litterers.
The Literary Fest was of a very high quality with intellectuals engaging with on various topics such as green tourism, heritage conservation when words grow wings. The Lake was awash with local visitors and tourists who enjoyed the ambiance. Several stalls around the Lake had lovely exhibits. Of particular interest to me are the lovely carved wood items. They were expensive but looking at the time add effort taken to sculpt the wood they are worth their price.
What was a little disappointing was the colour of the water in the Lake. It looked positively polluted. It is not known how water enters the Lake. Some people informed me that waste water from the Printing and Stationery Department, Government of Meghalaya flows into the Wards’ Lake. If that’s the case then the Government should try and clean up the Lake and prevent polluted water from flowing in. I recall when we visited the Lake as children, we would see fish swimming in the waters. Now we cannot even see a single fish. I suppose the lake waters will no longer support marine life. That’s one negative point to an otherwise lovely, pink festival.
Covid had dampened our spirits but now that the pandemic has slowed down and things have almost returned to normal it was so good to see young people thronging the Lake taking pictures and just enjoying the Festival. The checking at the gate was tight. Only those who are doubly vaccinated were allowed in. Tourists have started pouring into Shillong. My only hope is that Covid has left these hills and we can go back to our normal lives.
Calm before the storm
With the new COVID variant detected in South Africa, European nations have started to bring international travel restrictions and stock markets have indicated weak vital signs. World Health Organisation Chief Scientist Dr Soumya Swaminathan while speaking to Times Now emphasised on the need to strengthen public health measures and using science based approach to tackle the new variant. Certainly the majority of countries have opened up seeking normalcy, the dominant ‘Delta’ strain which wreaked havoc across the world and not to forget India was in the midst of the storm six months ago. Strong vaccination drive including the mandate for masking did bring down the numbers but complacency is the last thing we need.
Recently concluded elections in Meghalaya saw COVID protocols fly out of the window and the leaders themselves not practicing what they preach. Directives circulated on social media come heavily on ordinary mortals while the political class was immune from both virus and laws.
Mature leadership is required to contain the virus which still has legs to travel. A multi-pronged approach is needed using the help of the scientific community, researchers, epidemiologists and media specialists in order to be one step ahead in the game. While there is no need to press the panic button but sitrep (situation report) on evidence, local data, surveillance and testing should follow suit.
“Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it,” said George Santayana. The former Delta Force commander Pete Blaber in his book ‘The Mission, The Men and Me’ pressed the need to recognise life’s underlying patterns in order to emerge wiser and be prepared for when the smoke clears.