Dirt. Filth. Garbage. Take a walk in any Indian city and you will know what I am alluding to. The miraculous thing is, we are so indifferent to it, we do not even bother to think or look twice before spitting or littering in the middle of the roads. After all, Uttar Pradesh is famed for its red-stained roads- the beloved gifts of its ‘paan’-eating brethren. I have even had the misfortune of having one such gentleman sit next to me in a bus; he would be seized by a consistent urge to spit on the road from the window of the bus after every five minutes or so.
Then there are the innumerable, infinite Indian men and their small bladders. Even the Delhi High Court has now acknowledged that it can do little to stop the menace. There really is nothing more to be said. Maybe there is one thing I would like to add- There are men urinating in the community parks when their houses are not more than 5 minutes away. That is how callous and shameless people can be.
Sometimes I wonder whether I am the only one with heightened levels of sensitivity to any kind of trash in public spaces. For even though my room is always a mess and my hygiene consciousness may be questionable according to some, I simply cannot tolerate dumping anything on the roads, even if it is a banana peel. Just a couple of days back I walked the entire length between two Metro stations without finding a dustbin in sight. Although even with the dustbins in sight, I have seen people dump bottles of soft drinks not 10 meters away.
Many markets around the city will have stinking urinals, footpaths will have an overpowering stench of shit, there will hardly be any dustbins placed in public spaces. And instead of making an effort to reduce the filth, the stench, the garbage, we go on and out to add to it. We are such sticklers for cleanliness in our houses, but are indifferent when it come to the cleanliness of our surroundings. It is probably because of the fact that we have never come to prioritize or embrace the ideal of collective consciousness in our society. We find a hundred ways to differentiate ourselves from the next person in line and we hardly engage in social initiatives.
Mahatma Gandhi said in his speech at Banaras Hindu University back in 1916 that cleanliness is of supreme importance, while also sharing his regret at feeling a sense of disillusionment on seeing the holy ‘land of temples’ surrounded by filth and refuge. These words still ring true and going by the state of affairs, will continue to ring true for the next hundred years.