Tritiya means the third day. Yesterday was Akshaya Tritiya, one of the big days in Vrindavan.
They closed off traffic in the town, something that has been attempted several times now. It was tried and opposed by some interest groups and the program cancelled. Yesterday, I saw the results of the ban in town. I have been thinking of this for some time now, especially since I started going out from my room in Sheetal Chaya on a daily walk for darshan at Bihariji, Radha Vallabh and then to Radha Damodar. To get there I have to go through the Vidya Peeth crossing and Dussayat so I see some of the worst parts of the traffic situation in Vrindavan.
On the very first day I went nearly a month ago, I went by bicycle and was bitten by a dog not far from there, coming through Moti Jheel. Though I agree that the stray dog problem is an important one that needs to be addressed, the effects of incessant crowds and the continuous cacophony of honking horns, creates an atmosphere of tension that affects the animal life as well as the humans.
I thought, “It is actually not proper to take a vehicle to the temple to take darshan.” This is stated in the Puranas and Smritis.
The crowds have been increasing in general during this period. The Phul Bangla at Bihariji’s temple is a special time when one gets an unobstructed vision of Bihariji, and throngs of devotees come to the temple through the narrow streets and alleyways, sometimes with great difficulty. But when a motorcycle comes through, it is sometimes negotiated amicably. But often, it is a situation marred by aggressiveness: The one sitting on an iron machine with a throbbing engine naturally thinks the road belongs to him and really does not see why he should be made to follow the same rhythm as the crowd. And so, to express his frustration, he presses down on the horn and blasts away.
In the hours when traffic is less, there are nearly always some — usually young — men who think that the narrow streets of Vrindavan have become some kind of race course and blasting their warning to the world. Get out of my way!!!
But really, everyone seems to have this disease and they do not realize that this is particularly damaging to Vrindavan’s atmosphere.
One day, I was walking along a narrow alleyway in Sewa Kunj. A man on a motorcycle came behind me and started honking. I turned around and rather than let him pass, I asked him to please listen to me.
I said, “It used to be that everyone said, Jai Radhe Radhe Shyam in Vrindavan. Horns were made to be used at sufficient distance that a vehicle traveling at a fair speed can give warning to pedestrians or other vehicles. But in a crowd of pedestrians, they simply create a mass of anxiety. In fact, the horns are specifically made for creating anxiety. Speed, the hurry people are in, increases the general level of anxiety. Pushing people out of the way, threatening to run them over if they don’t run, whining annoyingly if they don’t move quick enough to allow you to carry out your oh-so-crucial business. You are within speaking distance of me, why don’t you just say Radhe Radhe?”
The next day in Bihariji Bazaar, an e-rickshaw kept honking behind me in the usual impassable crowd.
I was wondering: Why do e-rickshaws even need horns? They don’t travel at speeds much greater than a cycle rickshaw? And most of the honking is bloody pointless anyway, since a blocked road is blocked and is not going to get unblocked by honking. The person blocking the road, nine times out of ten does not want to be stuck there either.
Finally I turned around and said, “Do you really have to make so much noise. You could just say Radhe Radhe! It was always good enough before. You are right next to the people you want to warn. Just say Radhe Radhe and everyone will be happy.”
The people sitting in the back were impressed. I noticed that the driver said Radhe Radhe a few times before getting stuck again 30 or so meters down the road. Then he pressed down on the button again. But the passengers told him to say Radhe Radhe!!
Most of these rickshaw drivers are young outsiders who love to blast their Bollywood boomboxes. Why should this noise pollution be tolerated? They should ticket people. People don’t change their habits without carrots and sticks. The carrot should be a better environment. The stick should be tickets. But the local people are unfortunately just as bad. They have forgotten Radhe Radhe and are in a big hurry and need to disturb everyone so they can do it more hurriedly.
Yesterday was Akshaya Tritiya, the third day. I hoped that with cars kept out of the town and only pedestrian traffic that the situation would be better, but I quickly saw that it was even worse. There are more people on the street and the motorcycles and three-wheelers are even more determined to push their way through and are even more frustrated at their “ownership” of the road being thwarted. And with the weddings and other microphone-induced dissonance and clamor, I found that my equilibrium was being shattered. What state of catatonia must one attain in order to remain unaffected?
My point as usual, my friends, especially my young Brajvasi friends, is that you should really think about what this rushing and tension and anxiety and chasing after money do to the ambience of Vrindavan. In fact, it kills it. Let people come to Vrindavan and stroll in the streets without anxiety. Let only the most invalid sit in wheelchairs or at worst bicycle rickshaws. Keep the e-rickshaws out of Bihariji Road and other narrow roads as far as possible, at least on crowded days.
Ticket speeders. Fine people who use the horn excessively. Keep cars out of the inner part of the town, at least from Vamshi Bat to Bihariji.
Peace and happiness and love are the “product” that Vrindavan “sells.” The sounds of bhajan, kirtan and Bhagavatam should not be engaged in a death struggle with traffic chaos.
The more spirituality there is in Vrindavan, the more stable and sustainable the economic development will be.