Killing filth at Ganpatipule!

As the Nethravati Express screeched to a stop at Ratnagiri a mere 45 minutes behind schedule, my heart soared with expectation. On this section of Konkan Railway, where single-tracks were not uncommon, a delay of under an hour was a good omen. Paradise was beckoning us, and we were stretching our ear to listen to the roar of its gatekeepers.

Expectation it was, which was driving us to Ganpatipule for a full 5-day sojourn. Leaving our Indirapuram home at an ungodly (and unsafe, too) hour of 2.30 am, we took the first Mumbai-bound flight of the day. The train-journey from Mumbai to Ratnagiri was uneventful, though I must mention the food (I was surprised to find more non-veg options than what we get even on our home-stretch, Delhi-Kolkata). All through the journey, a picture from a fellow-traveler posted on flikr.com stayed entrenched in my memory – a blue sea with white sandy beaches, and the caption stating ‘…the colours are real’!

Remnants of last night's battle

Remnants of last night’s battle

The trip from Ratnagiri station to Ganpatipule was comfortable, in a spruced-up three-wheeler, on a smooth well-tarred road. The 50-odd kilometers were covered in an hour, and by 9 pm we had checked into MTDC’s resort by the sea. As I stepped out to the sprawling balcony, strains of a symphony welcomed me – the base notes of the waves crashing on the shore, interspersed with the crescendo of the sea-breeze passing through the palm-leaves.

After a hearty meal at MTDC’s Tarang restaurant, I slept a contented soul, with hopes and promises of my date with heaven the next day.

The next day broke late for me. Stepping out at the balcony I took the first look at the sea. Tranquil, blue sea.

Blue?

I must be bleary-eyed. Had taken an Alprax last night. Went back to the bathroom, splashed some more water on my face, came out rubbing my eyes, looking for the blue.

Sky-blue? Azure blue? At least a dull shade of grey-blue?

What welcomed me was a very impressive-looking Arabian sea. Strong waves. Mighty breeze – refreshing, invigorating. But very, very un-blue.

The famed beach

The famed beach

Move on – what’s in the blue, I said. Let’s go to the beach. Explore the clean white sand – no one can take that away from Ganpatipule, I told my wife and daughter.

The resort connects to the beach through several twisting pathways. A few hundred yards, and we were at the beach.

Beach?

A dumpyard of plastic bottles, styrofoam glasses, straws, discarded shoes (a variety to choose from, sneakers to sandals), and a myriad range of empty alcohol bottles. Hard ones – not the usual lager-type that you encounter occasionally on Goan beaches. And yes – a can of industrial adhesive too! Someone was seriously trying to mend relationships here!

The sea, shoe-ed away!

The sea, shoe-ed away!

The beach at Ganpatipule tells you a story of an everyday battle between man and sea – that between man’s careless desire to dump filth on the beach, and the sea’s relentless effort to reclaim its purity. The result is telling. Every morning, you can sea a battle-line drawn on the beach. The line, till which the sea has pushed back the filth the previous night – this becomes the starting line for the next day’s war.

Fixit on the beach

Fixit on the beach

And regrettably, the sea seems to be fighting a losing battle here. The beach is already half-gone.

If, however, you can withstand the initial shock, Ganpatipule can becalm you in no time. The rooms in MTDC’s resort are clean, basic, and the air-conditioners efficient (one of the few resorts I’ve come across that has split air-conditioners in the room). The resort is built on a height (except the Konkani huts), and offer a stupendous view of the sea from almost all its rooms / balconies. The main beach, closer to the temple, stays crowded almost all the while, so move away from it further towards right, beyond the Konkani huts. Walk along the edge of the sea, and you could possibly find a stretch which is relatively less filthy, and go frolicking in the water. There are a few rocks jutting out, so be careful not to get crashing onto one. The sand is soft, but the sea is generally stable, the waves regular and do not surprise you with under-currents.

Crabspotting!

Crabspotting!

Another high-point on the beach would be crab-watching. Certainly a lot less glamourous than bird-watching, but the sand-crabs residing the Ganpaipule beach are a treat to watch, especially if you have time on your hand (which you have aplenty, at Ganpatipule). They are unafraid of human proximity, so find out a few prospective ‘crab-holes’, settle down with a zoom, and you can watch them scurrying about busily at length to your delight, and that of your kids’.

I had enquired with a few locals about the colour of the sea (or the supposed lack of its blue-ness), and the usual explanation was that it turns grey when the wind is too strong. The wind is indeed strong, invigorating, and appetizing. And when you feel the first pangs of hunger, look no further beyond Tarang, MTDC’s in-house restaurant. The range is awesome, wholesome, and very, very reasonably priced. A day’s meal for three, including a can of beer would easily fit under a thousand bucks. A few points to remember though – bed-tea is served with a calling-bell in between 7-7.30, no room-service is to be expected, and Wednesdays are dry.

Make a day-trip to Ratnagiri. For the temple / memorial-lovers, there’s a local tour operator that takes you through a fixed agenda, but if you want to make your own itinerary, then the best option is to book an auto-rickshaw for the day. On the way to Ratnagiri, we traveled past the beautifully secluded Aarey beach, which is a reflection of what Ganpatipule possibly was some years ago. The Thibaw Palace at Ratnagiri was another jewel, as much for livening up the memory of the last exiled king of Burma, as for being able to spot a pair of cooing pigeons that to me embodied the spirit of the exiled king and his queen.

The question that remains to be answered is if something can be done to reverse the losing battle that the sea is facing at Ganpatipule. I had a chance to speak with a few locals. The reaction is mixed. People realize that continued dumping of the filth will turn off tourists. However, this will not affect the livelihood of the locals, because the presiding deity of Ganpatipule will continue to attract enough devotees to keep this place running, even if purely as a place of pilgrimage. So, the way forward is to create a mix of enough administrative pressure and awareness, to clean up the existing mess, and arrest future dumping of waste, to bring back Ganpatipule to its pristine glory.

Romance at Thibaw Palace

Romance at Thibaw Palace

The lead has to come from the district administration and MTDC, and can be started in the following three steps;

1. Clean up the existing mess: appoint beach-cleaners to collect the existing garbage; use volunteers / local NGOs / paid rag-pickers. Do it over a month – that should get the beach cleaned up substantially.
2. Prevention of further dumping: declare and maintain the whole area as a ‘no-plastic’ zone
3. Build awareness: educate the locals, involve the school-children, and set up collection bins at different parts of the beach (and dispose the garbage off in time)

Can we, ghumakkars, do it?

PS: If you’re not an atheist, do experience offering a puja (preferably the ‘abhisheka puja’) of Ganpatipule’s presiding deity, the swayambhu Ganpati at the dawn. The chantings at those early hours, with the sound of the sea at the background, take you almost as close to heaven as permissible.

31 Comments

  • Sudhir says:

    A strongly written and stongly felt post. Made me feel somewhat sad, though. I had been to Ganputipule about 8 years back and stayed in MTDC tents. Believe me, the beach was very clean and the sea was a grey-shade of blue. The callousness of people seems to have ruined the beautiful beach. Hope many more people read the article and take note. As Ghumakkars we surely can educate others and lead by example.

    • Uday says:

      I registered with Ghumakkar on the eve of leaving for Ganpatipule, hoping to colour my first post blue! Didn’t turn out the way I had anticipated. But I sincerely hope our combined voice will be heard!

  • kumkum says:

    Hi Uday, well written and welcome to Ghumakkar! We went to Ganapatiphule
    in 2006 and have very fond memories. The beach was absolutely clean and the sea as blue as the Camlin watercolour we used in school. Tsk! This is
    how we spoil everything. Do we deserve such beautiful places?

  • nandanjha says:

    Welcome aboard Uday to the world of Ghumakkars.

    Very well written.

    I am sure we can and your post would definitely inspire lot of travelers to do their bit. Internet is probably the youngest (and most effective in coming years) and swift-est medium to make it happen.

    Hoping to see more colors in coming times from you here.

  • Cuckoo says:

    Uday,
    A well written post but I am sorry, like others, I too have to disagree with you. The beach is one of the cleanest beaches of India and well, quite blue.

    When was your trip ? I went there in December end last year. Yet to write and post photos about it in detail but here you can see a glimpse of what I mean.

    Probably you went in wrong time. :-)

    P.S.- It’s people like you and me who make a place dirty. We ourselves are responsible and will have to do something about it. The most dirty place I saw there was near Konkani huts. It was a cardbox full of beer bottles. :)

    • udayadittya says:

      Cuckoo,

      Thanks for your kind comments. You do not have to necessarily agree with me, but pictures don’t lie. See the photogarphs yourself. The ‘blue-ness’ is probably seasonal, though – that’s what the locals told us.

      I’ve resumed office today, so the trip (and the post) is virtually ‘fresh off the oven’.

      Saw your Ganpatipule photographs – awesome! It was photographs like those which drove us to take up this vacation :)

  • thecommutist says:

    Lovely post! Reminded me of my college days when we used to walk all the way from Ratnagiri to Ganapatipule during vacations!

  • arvindpadmanabhan says:

    Thanks for your honest and critical report. Indian beaches deserve just this. Yes, you can clean up other people’s mess but they will still not reform. Not in India.

  • Ram says:

    Welcome aboard Uday.

    Very well written and explicit report on the callous attitude of all of us. I fully agree with Cuckoo that we are ourselves responsible for this mess (incidentally, good to see you Cuckoo after quite sometime). I wish MTDC and the local administration would do something and bring back the pristine glory to this place.

    A few pictures would have added colour to this beautiful piece of writing.

    • Uday says:

      Thanks Ram. I’ve posted a few photographs. Just to give all of you an idea of what the situation is on the beach…

  • Cuckoo says:

    Mr Ram,
    Oh I keep reading posts here, it’s another thing that I don’t comment too often especially if I don’t have anything to contribute on the post. :)

    MTDC is doing its part and it is better maintained than any other MTDC I have seen. While walking on the beach one early morning, I could see 1 or 2 beer bottles strewn on the beach near Konkani huts (the ones with expensive tariff rates). It shows that the people who can afford to pay the highest, are the ones who make it dirty as well.

    P.S.- I have more than 200 snaps of the place, been there last December. The only thing I am lacking right now is time to write anything on it. In my prev. comment I have given a link which will show you 2 photos of Ganapatipule and I think that tells us something abt the place. :)

    Thanks for remembering me. :)

  • Vaishali says:

    Hi Uday,

    I went to Ganpatipule in 2006 and was mesmerised as the sea was blue,sand was grey, clean- totally upto your expectations…Its really disappointing to hear that it is filthy now. I think people are not guilt cognizant while spoiling the place.
    Did you get chance to try any water sport there in MTDC?I heard a lot about it before i went. However did not find much than water sking..

    • ANIL DHANANJAY DESHMUKH says:

      hello uday, ganpati pule is beach your very danger now killing to people god help me not taken to alive god leave to temple i see not people go to sea not swiming and good some thinking that beach dangers i am sorry budy god killed people iam not pure english/atmyla shanti labho hi god bless you ,

  • nandanjha says:

    Seems everyone has been to this beach except me :)

    Uday – I took the liberty of moving all the pics from a new story to the original story. Thought that it would make more sense to have everything together. Thanks.

  • smitadhall says:

    I’m another, completely unaware of this place.

    But really, even if the beach is still-as-good-as-ever generally, but happened to be this bad when you were there, my heart aches to read the details. Why, most of the tourist spots (and pardon my bias here) and especially the ones of religious importance are smeared with garbage. While some of the local and shrine authorities are making large efforts to solve it, many are still complacent. Hope we reach there someday, soon.

  • Rajeev Tivari says:

    Great post! Not only a lesser known but apparently great place is rediscovered, the issue of littering is passionately taken up. The crab close up is fantastic. Reminds me of the red crab chase in Chilika Lake.

    I agree with Smitha’s observation that tourists spots and especially pilgrimage centres are full of litter. If one goes rationalising, one reason could be the shear number and the other the demography of visitors.

    It is true not only of a certain underprvileged section of populace but also of a majority that they do not pay attention to external cleanliess. For them the world external to their rooms/premises is an infinite sink to take all their filth. So expecting individual citizens to make a better world by themselves could be asking for too much.

    A more positive and asserive action from the government agencies/market associations/temple authorities can have a bigger impact. No one gave away polythene bags voluntarily even if its affects were known, but orders have made a visible impact. I have seen no plastic bags/filth in and around Akshardham temple.

  • Patrick Jones says:

    Chest swelling with pride remembering the braveheart peasants who sacrificed themselves for my countrys freedom, I was reverentially treading the sacred paths of Jallianwala Bagh when I saw a young man littering the very same place which might have been soaked in a martyrs blood, with utter disregard to the explicit instructions prominently displayed. When I gently reminded him of his disrespectful act, he simply flipped the litter into the lawns!

    God save our country!

  • Abhijit says:

    Uday,your photos of the beach made my heart bleed silently. Even Lord Ganapati could not save his own ‘Pule’ !

    Mukherjee da.

  • Manish Khamesra says:

    Uday, I was not expecting that anyone can even describe filth so beautifully ;-)

    I like to appreciate your efforts to draw attention of all of us towards not converting our beautiful motherland in FILTH.

    • Uday says:

      Thanks Manish. Glad to note that the post is still evoking interest, even after more than three months of its being published.

      Hope it also results in some action, somewhere…

      Cheers!

      Uday

  • nandanjha says:

    Uday – In 3 months time, this post has been viewed more than twelve hundred times :-)

  • Uday says:

    Thanks Nandan – if this doesn’t inspire me to pen (rather, keyboard) my next post, then nothing else will…:)

  • tripper says:

    i have studied very near to ganapatipule in a small town devrukh which has a good engineering college…….for us enng students ganpatipule was the place to visit after exams to unwind, relax, enjoy wit friends,steal a romantic moment wit loved one,etc and before exams to pray to lord ganpati tat we might juzzz top the exams…..with foolish promises of offering to the elephant god……i didnt ever top my class but i did manage to find my life partner there…….ganpatipule becomes a mess during christmass and diwali when the sea is at its best……..early in mornin u can take a boat ride into the sea and spot dolphins…..believe me we have seen loads of them….during nov dec jan feb months….if u r a blue blooded marathi or a maharashtrian cuisine lover u have to eat misal pav and batata vada at the small tapris cum shops…next to mandir. jaigarh fort is near to ganpatipulee u can visit it also…..and its fun to enjoy at kokani huts and tents with ayurvedic massage and lazing on hammocks drinking coconut water or kokum sharbat and listening to the sound of sea…….have fond memories of this place……

  • Payal says:

    Hey All

    I have plans to spend my this years b’day out here at Gods divine place, which would be my first visit and taking my parents too for the first time. I have plans to perform a puja on that day. Could anyone help to let me know if there is any specific dress code needed to perform puja. Had heard some one saying there is a specific saree and dhoti to be worn yet not sure.
    Look ahead to hear from some one soon.

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