News from Down Under

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Bush fires raging for weeks in Australia’s state of New South Wales have impacted the lives of thousands of people, among them sannyasin friends, writes Bhagawati.

Australia fires

Since December of last year, horrifying footage and photos showing the devastating bush fires in Australia have been broadcast worldwide. The plight of the people who had to escape, barely able to take anything with them, and the arduous heroic work of the volunteer fire fighters remained headline news. It has been estimated that almost one billion animals perished in the fires, mainly kangaroos, koalas, wombats, bats, birds and reptiles. Conservative estimates state that about 12 million acres of land burned to the ground, equivalent to an area approximately the size of the U.S. states of Vermont and New Hampshire combined.

A bit late into the inferno, the military was finally called in to help and many were wondering, “What took them so long?” Thousands of demonstrators continue to accuse the government of having been asleep at the wheel, leaving the affected population mainly to their own devices to save their lives.

I was wondering and concerned about what was happening to several friends who I know to be living between Sydney and Australia’s southeast point. That’s Nirada and Neehar, Agneya, Mahant and Parinito, Nura, Sarvo, Satyamurti, Deep…

The first information came from Nirada who, together with Neehar, managed to get out of their endangered property with minutes to spare. I knew they had found a hotel in a safe area at first and then found refuge with friends.

Neehar, his sister Sangeet, Nirada
Neehar, his sister Sangeet, Nirada

Yesterday, Nirada wrote that all sannyasin friends are fine. She continued, “But the fires are far from over until there are really good rains. In some places the fires have even gone through twice!

“We are waiting for water and electricity poles to be replaced everywhere, plus a new meter box (hopefully without a smart meter but at present they may not be able to do that). We drive out every day from our friends’ place near the coast to our home… cleaning out fridges and freezer… and dumping bags full of food and other debris up the paddock down into a big wombat hole… it smells horrid. Tomorrow I will shovel all the wombat diggings over everything like landfill and that’s the best I can manage.

“We lost our working vehicle so need to find another old Toyota wagon somewhere… can’t be living so far away in the countryside without a backup vehicle.”

She added, “But we all are alive and we live with as much grace as is understood…”

This morning, Nirada wrote that she saw an injured wallaby nearby but he’d moved away while magpies were singing despite thick smoke covering much of the area: “The sages say it’s all an illusion and the illusion seems to be in how we see it… otherwise it just is what it is. And today is Neehar’s 81st birthday and he’s just trucking along his usual intrepid way fixing things… perhaps we’ll go for a thali at the Indian place in town on the way back to celebrate everything!”

Love, love, love.

Image credit Murray Lowe, Facebook
Image credit Murray Lowe, Facebook

Meanwhile, local photographer, Murray Lowe has published images he took near his home in Kulnara, NSW. As reported by the BBC, stopping at the edge of Dhurag National Park, in a small residential community which largely survived the fire, he saw “the ground puffed up ash into the air from each footstep as we walked among the tree trunks in the eerie silence and stillness that only fires of this intensity can produce in aftermath.”

Walking on the grey ash, next to mobile phone masts downed by the fire that ravaged the area in late December, he found green grasses and rose-coloured leaves sprouting through burnt tree trunks. Seeing the plants regrowing so quickly gave him hope, after witnessing what seemed like “total destruction.”

He said, “This was the sign of renewal we had been seeking. We were witnessing the rebirth of a forest that Australia is so well-known for.”


Bhagawati is a communicator, writer and author with a penchant for gardening and India.

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