Is the Ganges Depressed?

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“Sometimes when I say I’m okay, I want someone to look at me in the eyes, hug me tight and say, ‘I know you’re not’.”

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, depression is a common but serious mood disorder causing severe symptoms that affect how one feels, thinks and handles daily activities.

A person diagnosed with persistent depressive disorder may have episodes of major depression along with periods of less severe symptoms.
Women with perinatal depression experience full-blown major depression during pregnancy or after delivery. The feelings of extreme sadness, anxiety and exhaustion that accompany perinatal depression may make it difficult for these new mothers to complete daily care activities for themselves or for their babies.

Psychotic depression occurs when a person has severe depression plus some form of psychosis, such as having delusions or hallucinations.
Someone with bipolar disorder experiences episodes of extremely low moods as well as periods of extreme high.

And there are other kinds of depression that many people suffer from. Unfortunately in India, knowledge or acceptance of depression is still very much in its infancy and any conversation around depression quickly degenerates into a discussion on insanity. There are a lot of depressed people in India and around the world who are just not aware of the fact that they are depressed, and continue to suffer.

Depression is a clinical condition like all other diseases and can be treated. Current research suggests that depression is caused by a combination of genetic, biological, environmental, and psychological factors.

The key word in the last sentence, from our current perspective, is “environmental”. The environment can and does have an effect on how we feel, depressed or euphoric or balanced. Winter depression, for instance, is a significant kind in areas where there is lack of sunlight for days on end.
It has been proven that depression is a disease with causes, symptoms and remedies.

A thought that has been going on my mind is to see whether there is a possibility that the Ganges is depressed.

Now that she has been declared by the Court to be a living entity, maybe the comparisons can become a little easier. Let us look at some symptoms of depression and try and corelate them to the way the Ganges might possibly react to those symptoms.

Drinking heavily is a major indication of someone going through depression. Nearly a third of the people with depression abuse alcohol. The Ganges may not be drinking by choice, but the very fact that she is constantly fed toxic chemicals can be seen as alcohol abuse.

Depression can weaken the part of the brain that deals with memory. Depressed people are often forgetful. Take a walk down the banks of the Ganges. Or, better still, take a boat ride. You will come across multiple channels, separated by sand bars. It is almost as if the Ganges forgot which way to go and has been trying to find her way.

Many people suffering from depression undertake binge eating. And there is so much the Ganges can binge on ... half burnt corpses being one of them.

A person who does not want to take care of himself is possibly suffering from depression. The Ganges has immense self healing qualities, but that process seems to be slowing down.

Other signs of depression that we can draw on to equate with the Ganges can be feeling persistently sad, anxious or empty, feelings of hopelessness, irritability, even feelings of guilt, worthlessness or helplessness. There is decreased energy, fatigue, the person tends to slow down their gait, even talk more softly or slowly. Some have trouble sitting still, other can sit still for hours together.

Is it possible that the mute, hapless and helpless Ganges is going through depression? It is quite likely.

We have used her for our benefit for centuries, and we are abusing her by polluting her.

She has cleaned our sins since the day she cascaded down to Earth through the locks of Lord Shiva’s locks. It is time we did our bit by cleaning her of the dirt, grime, chemicals and sewage that we subject her to.

It’s natural to feel down sometimes, or even to feel let down by others. But we cannot let that feeling persist day after day, week after week. Depression is not a sign of weakness or a negative personality. It is a major health problem and a treatable medical condition.

So with the Ganges. We cannot allow her to wallow in the ignominy we are subjecting her to. We have to stop letting our sewage and chemicals flow into her bosom.

The Ganges has been a Mother Goddess to Indians. And not just to the Hindus for whom there is a particular significance. The Ganges feeds, clothes and washes everyone who lives on her banks, regardless of race, religion, colour or faith. She does so with equanimity. Yet we continue to pay lip service to the thoughts of cleaning her.

If it requires religion to inculcate the sense of purity and cleanliness, so be it. We have to do whatever it takes to clean the Ganges. We have to do it for our future, for the future of our children and for the future of the river herself. She may have been declared a living entity, which also means that she is subject to the mortality all living beings are governed by. She lived like a Goddess for centuries, I just hope that we have not put the finality of mortality by certifying her to be a human being.

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