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Sweeping Air by Meera Subramanian


But what if, my inner pragmatist asks, just a fraction of the energy, money and time that went into building the temples, enacting the rituals, making the pilgrimages, and organizing the festivals, one after the other, was instead spent on improving the most basic elements of human necessity needed in this life? Can digging a latrine be an act of worship? Can placing the plastic bag in the garbage be as much of an offering as casting the flowers it held into the Ganga? Can setting the stones that cover the open sewers be as important as setting the stones for a temple? Isn’t it a blessing to give a child access to water that won’t make her sick?

Each day is finite and there is so much work to do in this life. There are so many streets to sweep. Instead we sweep air.


Meera Subramanian is an independent journalist who writes about culture, faith and the environment. Her work has appeared in national and international publications including NatureVirginia Quarterly Review, the  New York Times, Salon, Smithsonian, USA Today, the Wall Street Journal, T he Caravan and India Today. She is a senior editor at  Killing the Buddha.

This article is cross-posted from  The Revealer, a publication of The Center for Religion and Media at New York University

With support from the Henry R. Luce foundation.