There is a saying which is often heard, but to which we do not pay much heed. "History repeats itself," the saying goes, but more so in those countries that do not learn from history as in case of Nepal. Whether it be in regard to the country’s problems, or events, wise countries willing to learn from the maxim go forward and make new mistakes which is but natural, whereas those that do not, or who do not give it much thought keep repeating the same mistakes over and over again and that too with uncanny precision and scientific accuracy. This could not be more apt than in our case even in matters that keep cropping up every year.
Since we never seem to learn from past mistakes, whether it be in major political events that adversely affect the nation or even in simple and less complicated matters like managing a simple Shivaratri festival and easing the flow of human traffic, the question of mismanagement, lack of adequate planning etc. becomes a predictable annual affair. Therefore, when the same mistake was repeated this year by the concerned authorities in managing even a bigger crowd of worshippers than expected, it was but natural for the devotees, especially the men, lining up for hours, to come up with the choicest, unprintable four letter words at the government and more so at the Pashupati Area Development Trust (PADT) for a pathetic lack of the same.
Contrary to expectations this year, there was a massive turn up of some 800,000 devotees that thronged the Pashupatinath temple to observe Mahashivaratri, one of the greatest Hindu festivals. However, it was clearly discernable right from the very start that it was the worst management so far!
Prior to the event, the management somewhat grandly stated that a 251 member main organising committee coordinated by the Minister for Culture, and 10 sub committees were formed a month ahead to manage the festival and the smooth flow of worshippers. Around 8,000 volunteers and 4,000 security personnel were deployed to coordinate with the PADT. According to reports, some 3,500 Sadhus, among them 500 nanga babas (naked Sadhus) arrived to take part in the festival. Some 3,000 of them were reported to be from India alone.
But in spite of all the "arrangements" the visitors and worshippers complained of hassles and poor management on the part of the concerned authorities. Believe it or not, people had to cue up for some 10 hours for their chance to worship the deity in the temple in spite of a pompous and premature claim by the PADT earlier that the worshippers would not have to wait in queue for more than 30 minutes!
But the reality was that even people who had queued up since six in the morning only got through at 3 o’clock in the afternoon. Volunteers and even security personnel were accused of breaking the rules by helping friends and relatives in jumping the queue much to the consternation of those honestly waiting in line for their turn. According to a devotee from India, the whole thing was badly and pathetically managed. According to him, he had never gone through such a harrowing experience while visiting any temple in India whether during major festive occasions or otherwise. Other visitors from India and from different walks of life, anxiously and patiently waiting for their turn, also felt the same way.
When asked the reason for such pathetic management and unruly chaos, in spite of earlier claims to the contrary, the PADT Member Secretary even sheepishly admitted that the management was indeed poor this year. According to him, and contrary to expectations, the crowds thronging the temple complex increased two fold this year compared to last year and that it therefore got beyond their control. But he also said that the PADT had taken the whole thing in a positive light and that it would greatly help in management of the festival in the coming years! According to another committee member, though eight routes were opened for devotees and the temple doors were thrown open from 3:15 am the management got out of hand since devotees queued up from the night before. He was ‘confident’ that the situation would noticeably improve next year.
Those of course are the often repeated promises and lame excuses that come up every year. But going by past records, we can rest assured that things will not get better but worse in the coming years. As it is, we never learn from history or from past mistakes. We just keep repeating them and taking the difficulties faced by the people for granted. It will not be the least bit surprising if the same thing happens next year in spite of the police arresting some 120 people from the vicinity of the Pashupatinath temple and some 32, including students, for smoking cannabis. Thanks to the Sadhus who also seemed to have done good business on the side selling the stuff. According to the law, cannabis consumption is allowed for Sadhus only on the day of Shivaratri and that too strictly within the Pashupatinath temple complex.
Like every other year, plenty of arrests were also made this year. Among those arrested were pickpockets, hooligans and eve teasers who surface punctually on such occasions. Except for cannabis smokers, the others were probably released the very next day! What is even laughable is that in spite of the ban on the smoking of cannabis by the police last year, some 50 persons, mostly youths, were detained for smoking the same this year!
This brings us back to the question raised at the start; will we ever learn from past mistakes? Will the management really be better next year? Will the authorities concerned be more alert and see that untoward incidents do not take place in future Shivaratri festivals? Will the planning be such next year so as to incorporate even huger crowds than generally expected? Will the security lapse experienced this year be a lesson for managing such events in the coming years? Will there be strict laws against cannabis smoking, especially by youths and the sale of the same by the Sadhus next year?
The answer, according to a senior citizen, who fainted while patiently waiting in line for his turn to worship Lord Shiva, the answer is a categorical NO! And that too with capital letters! According to him, and in resemblance to the famous saying,
"Baru dhungro bango hunchha
Kukkurko puchhar sojho hudaina!"