Thaipusam and our persistent trashy problems

It’s one of the most significant annual celebrations by Hindus in Malaysia. To many, Thaipusam is all about observing the many chariot processions, playing games, wearing glow stick wristbands, devouring palkova cubes and talking pictures for social media feeds.

The truth is, we just don’t realise how ignorant we have been. If we stop and take a moment to look around us, what do we see scattered all over the ground?

TRASH.

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Can you believe that – apart from those beautiful photos of the Lord Murugan statue and kavadis that has been circulating the internet recently – these unpleasant pictures were also taken at Batu Caves?

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Every year, the holy place is blasted with trash, from stairways leading all the way to the areas near the riverbank. It’s insane, I tell you. The trash themselves are mostly plastic waste (plastic bags, milk bottles, water bottles, straws) which aren’t environmentally friendly.

I was shocked to see people rummaging through piles of trash and footwear at the entrance of Lord Ganesh’s shrine. As always, not everyone seems to care at all. We are so busy doing our own stuff until we forget our responsibilities to keep the surroundings clean.

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Over the years, many transformations have taken place in Batu Caves. An iconic Lord Murugan statue now stands alongside a few temples and shops; there are also improved facilities, repainted stairs, etc. All in all, Thaipusam these days are way different than how it was years ago.

Remember that #10yearchallenge everyone was hyped up about? Despite all these positive changes which have occurred, there’s one thing that has so far refused to change.

Our pathetic littering habits.

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Are we going to just ignore this issue as if it’s not a big deal? Is it even appropriate to set an example to the children that littering is OK because somebody will eventually clean them up for us?

Worse still, no matter how many dustbins have been prepared here and there, trash would still pile up everywhere. Huge manpower is needed to make frequent clean ups achievable.

For those who visit Batu Caves, you should have known how congested it would be during the season. In fact, it is entirely possible for people to get lost in the pouring crowd.

So, imagine the amount of trash we accumulate each year.

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Look, there are many, many ways to initiate eco-friendly changes right at this very temple. Individual efforts are just as important as group efforts. It’s very simple. For example:

  • Those who give out take-away ‘annadhanam’ (free food or drinks) can switch to bio-friendly options such as biodegradable food containers or reusable plastic food containers instead of single-use plastic container. Meanwhile, those who give out instant food may consider using banana leaf instead of plastic plates.
  • Bring your own water bottles to cut down plastic waste. The temple management may prepare water dispensers for refill.
  • Bring your own food containers.
  • Say no to plastic, bring your own bags to carry your stuff.
  • Bring a separate bag to keep your trash in case the dustbins are full.

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Remember, “I didn’t see any dustbin” isn’t a legitimate permit to dump our trash anywhere we want. It’s an irresponsible excuse, not only during Thaipusam, but on any occasions.

It’s time to take responsibilities, people. Take off the blindfold and let’s be good examples to educate our future generation. Stop imparting the “God is watching”, “God will poke your eyes” tricks on them while you, a full-grown adult, casually litter around like nobody cares.


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