Days back I heard my grandmother complaining of how one of her friends from the ‘gang’ had noticed the way I walk on streets with my head bowed down mostly, as if shying away from prying eyes. To her, that was somewhat not a healthy sign of a good personality as psychology terms this particular habit as ‘low on confidence’. Hence, the warning. Though I absolutely identify her motherly concern and cannot refuse that little logical information hidden behind her analysis, yet the truth must prevail, which being – I happen to have this obsession to not step on anything dirty while walking (explains why I am mostly at home during rainy days). I see how the streets are lighted up with more leftovers, veggies, plastics, skins of fruits, empty beverage holders, etc. at every few feet than any lamp posts covering them. This makes me wary of what I step on more than I should be concerned about who I may end up colliding with. Hence, my bowed down head and the prying eyes helping me to walk carefully and ‘cleanly’ on road.
Now this was a negotiable problem compared to what more I confronted. My short trip to this wonderful beach called Digha, West Bengal, brought me the best of memories I could probably ask for except for the alarming realization of how Digha’s beach was way dirtier than what it had been when I had once been here with my family during my primary schooldays. And I must not shy away from felicitating the contribution of such to the confused evolving creature called humans. All I wanted was to have some fun in the beach and my desire was instantly put off when I experienced how disastrously dirty, unclean and smelly the beach had become! All kinds of waste littering wherever you lay your eyes on – such a depressing sight! Here I knew how my problems (even yours, maybe?) had just grown bigger.
I wonder what it takes to put one’s wastes into a dustbin! I have witnessed people having ‘golgappas’ (a common street snack in several regions of South Asia, Pakistan, Bangladesh, etc.) and throwing away leaf plates on the ground even if the stall-keeper has arranged for a hanging dustbin. Then there are people having chips and related snacks while walking on road and dumping the wrapper just like that! I mean, C’mon fellows? You blame the Government for an inactive Swacch Bharat scheme? What about you? Have you been asking yourself as to why you have a special affinity towards littering at your neighbors’ yard but keep your houses clean? How do you explain a potential property being turned into a heap of trash just because it remains unused? Sorry to offend our middle-class sensibilities but what really takes us away from something that clearly shouts ‘Use Me’?
There have been uncounted attempts at eradicating this habit since a long time. Be it campaigns or activists’ efforts or schemes, very little has been able to nudge our conscience. We all have a sketch of the idea on how littering sincerely affects our economy, aesthetic values and our lives! Yet the message is lost somewhere, forgotten by the ignorant population. And trust me when I say, it is not just the poor people doing the rounds. Even the high-class population with handful of degrees, the ones with more number of cars than happiness, the ambitious and the non-ambitious – everyone’s deprived of conscience.
I could suggest a fifty or more solutions to this problem right now but here is where the readers would probably stop reading the article further. I wouldn’t be surprised to listen to some – “Ah, same boring scores again!”. I could talk about how the young generation could take the initiative of collecting funds from their localities and with the help of Municipal Corporation (mostly their existence is outright useless) set up dustbins every 10 meters away. I could talk about how parents should sensitize their children all about it from Day 1. I could ask the government to make strict laws, taking examples of countries like California or Hawaii or Delaware and charge huge fines. But all of it doesn’t really matter – we’ve turned it into a comical cycle. We all are too smart to be aware of what to do and what ‘not’ to do, it’s just that we have a jeopardized morality.
All I would do is, quote Telegraph’s well-known columnist, Alex Proud as he goes on to say –
“I’d work on changing our national attitude. Bring back the ubiquitous anti-littering campaigns of the 1970s. And remind ourselves that not everything about the rather conformist society we had back then was bad. We need a bit more collective disapproval. We need little old ladies telling 15 year olds off when they drop a sweet wrapper – and if the 15 year goes off on some tirade about half-imagined rights, we need a crowd of bystanders to step up and tell him what a horrible little scrote he is.”