As my husband drove out of the parking lot of one of the busiest posh malls of our city, I was engrossed in discussing my latest shopping escapade with my fashion-savvy friend on WhatsApp. It was a Sunday, and as expected, there was a huge queue of vehicles getting out of the mall premises one by one. I got distracted by the abrupt sound of a falling object. Curious, I looked outside to find that the man at the driver’s seat in the Scorpio ahead of us had thrown out a Bisleri bottle. “Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan” had been launched by our Prime Minister just a day before this incident occurred. “What an irony!” – I remember thinking to myself.
It was my first trip to Goa and predictably, I was all charged up and excited. I was doing my hair at the Bangalore airport restroom, when I noticed that a lady had tossed a tissue paper after wiping her hands, on the floor – even when there was a trash bin right beside her. I politely requested her to drop the tissue in the bin, but guess what! She frowned at me, shook her head and stomped out of the restroom. I suppressed the urge to run after her and give her a piece of my mind. Instead, I picked up the tissue and dropped it in the bin myself.
We purchased the quick darshan tickets when we visited Tirupati Balaji temple for the first time. But, fortunately or unfortunately, the day we chose to pay homage to the almighty turned out to be an auspicious day, which resulted in the temple being swarmed with devotees. We were waiting for our turn in the scorching heat, which seemed like an eternity away. The quick darshan queue was too long and was moving at a snail’s pace. To beat the heat, a man bought tetra-packs of Frooti for his entire family, and once they were done, the packs were flung right beside the queue. There was a dustbin a few meters away, and hence, I confronted him. When I questioned him about his hesitance to walk such a short distance, he justified his act by showing me how the area where he had thrown the Frooti tetra-packs had already been dirty. The area was littered with empty bottles, cans, packets and tetra-packs, and it was a most disheartening sight.
I was at a grocery shop right outside my society complex and spotted a couple who were relishing some coconut water. After consumption, they unabashedly hurled the coconuts down the road. I asked them whether this is the “Swachh Bharat (Clean India)” that we are all dreaming about – only to be responded with a smirk. Far from being apologetic, they retaliated in a conceited tone.
“Mind your own business! Does this road belong to your father?”
“Yes, the road belongs to my father and your father and all of us”, I quipped, seething with disgust.
I realized this would get nowhere and walked away feeling defeated.
I was on a tour with my friends, and we had just witnessed the eminent and grand ceremony of the lowering of the flags by both countries at the Wagah Border in Amritsar. It was an event that gave us goosebumps, and was a memory that would be etched in our minds forever. We were walking towards the car we had hired, while still reeling under the effect of what we had just experienced. A man walking along with his family threw some bottles on the road, and this was probably one of those rare occasions when such an act surprised me. Maybe, we were expecting better etiquette at a place like the Wagah Border – well, it was our bad! The good thing was that once my friend told him off for what he did, his son immediately picked up the bottles and assured us that he will put them where they should be. He demonstrated that kids are, more often than not, more receptive than us adults, and are therefore, great teachers. This incident brought back some reminiscences of my trip to New Zealand in a flash.
Our trip to New Zealand is extremely special to me – it was perfect in every way, and this wasn’t just because of the spellbinding, raw and untainted beauty of the place. I can never forget each person I interacted with, there – and more so, two little girls who inspired me for life. During a bus journey, these little girls had hopped on at a stop and were seated opposite to us. The elder one was probably around 8 years old, while the younger one seemed to be around 3-4 years of age. They were travelling alone, much to our amazement, and not once did they feel anxious or unsure. The elder one was taking wonderful care of her younger sister, and I was absolutely in awe of her throughout the journey. I noticed them enjoying a banana and some biscuits. After they finished eating, the elder girl looked around in the bus. When she could not locate a trash bin, she took out a garbage bag from her backpack and put all the waste in there. My husband and I were so impressed by the attitude and the sensitivity that she showed at her age. What she did was probably something commonplace for her – but she moved me and cajoled me into introspection. I decided on that day itself that I would always keep a garbage bag with me whenever I travel – and refrain from littering, whatever be the situation.
It is true that even after the “Swachh Bharat Abhiyan” has been launched, some of our fellow citizens still have complaints with the Government about what they can do more to further improve the ‘hygiene and sanitation situation’ in our country. Though some of the concerns are well-founded, this post is not about the Government. This is about US! Are we doing enough? Are we performing our roles to move towards a ‘clean India’? All the incidents that I have narrated above are factual, and have mostly occurred after a whole lot of “Swachh Bharat” campaigning. It is very saddening and exasperating for all of us who have envisioned a better, cleaner India.
What is the use of your education and certificates if you cannot keep your environment above your ego and arrogance? What is the use of your independence and empowerment if you cannot open your mind and be sensitive and perceptive towards the world around you? What is the point in offering prayers to the various Gods if you cannot respect the earth which you believe he has created? What is the point in shouting patriotic slogans if you are lackadaisical when it comes to the basic cleanliness of your country?
As they say, change the world, one person at a time! Start with yourself – then with the people you come across in your day to day lives. Let us inculcate in ourselves and our kids the habit to dispose waste properly. More schools should educate kids on this topic, and it should be a continual process. All the activities that have been undertaken as a part of the “Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan” should not end up being a fad for the purpose of pictures and some fame. From using all kinds of art forms to convey the message, to actual participation in cleanliness drives, there are multitudinous ways in which kids can be involved to become responsible citizens, and thereby, to spread awareness. Today, we had a party within our society campus, and we cleaned up after it instead of leaving it all there till the next day for the housekeeping staff. These small things go a long way in influencing the next generation to be civil and humble with a rational mindset. They are the ones who can potentially bring about a change in the attitude of people like the ones I have portrayed in the examples above – if we fail to do so.
Do not hesitate to point out to those littering that they are in the wrong. They may shun you or be rude to you – but a few may get influenced and change their ways. The next time someone asks you to mind your own business, when you try to rectify their actions, tell them that it is unquestionably your business because it is not their home but OUR country that is getting messed up. Lack of cleanliness breeds diseases and certainly, no one wants to get affected by diseases. And just because ‘everyone’ is dumping garbage somewhere randomly doesn’t mean you follow suit. Break the chain and lead the way! If there aren’t enough dustbins in a particular area, just carry a garbage bag with you, always. It is as simple as that! We need to understand that Government cannot provide dustbins everywhere. Even the most developed nations are unable to do that due to logistical reasons and expect you to carry and dispose of your own trash.
“Swachh Bharat” is not just a mission – it is also an attitude. Only when our outlook becomes “Swachh” can we truly make India clean and beautiful. Please do not let this issue take a backseat with the other burning issues of our country being the focal points. Through conduct, through conversations, through exemplification – keep doing your bit!