Does God really live in Plastic Palani?

Last week, I was in Palani, covering the destination for a travel publication. Shock and awe are the two words that can best describe how I felt. Add to that sub-tones of revulsion, derision and the urge to get away from there as fast as a Tata Indica with a TN registration could take me. Now, nearly everyone knows that Palani is the seat of Murugan worship in southern India, and a magnet for the faithful. What they tend to forget is that Palani is also the gateway to the Palani Hills, which are a part of the Western Ghats and the Nilgiri Biosphere. In other words, it's an important link in a very critical ecosystem. However, like any religious destination, Palani is being trashed by tourists with a fervour that defies imagination. Plastic is everywhere, despite effete signboards banning its use. Trash forms a parallel mountain very near the shrine of the lord. And driving 13 km away on the Palani-Kodai road, I came across a signboard that told a sad story. And it struck me that the problem is really deep-rooted. It's not one of literacy or the lack of it. It's not the defiance of the rule of law. It's a hopeless apathy that runs agonisingly deep. And what's that someone said about cleanliness and godliness?