I took my nephew to the gateway of India a while ago, and had a really difficult time teaching values. After looking at the sea from every possible angle, he pointed at the bottles and other garbage thrown in the sea. I saw many tourists, foreign and Indian, guilty of the act. I was really very indignant. We, Mumbaites, can be very touchy that way. We might not keep our city clean, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t too.
Looking at my nephew, I realised that this could be a fine teaching moment. He was now busy with his dairy-milk. I told him, “When you finish, you throw the wrapper in the trash can. Other’s will learn from you.”
He dutifully nodded.
Minutes later, we started searching for a trash can. There wasn’t any. We walked all around the entire stretch and some more. I could see signs of apprehension in my nephew’s eyes. He must have started wondering if he’ll have to keep walking till we spot a trash can. What if we don’t find one?
Finally, I told him to do what I always do. We decided, we don’t need a trash can. We had one at home. We could take the wrapper home in my purse and throw it in our own trash can.
Then, I realised the source of my habit of carrying all such waste home in my purse. There never is a trash can nearby. The only places which have a trash can are the railway stations and the hawker’s stands.
I looked back at the people throwing the trash in the sea. Most of them weren’t carrying any bags. Normally, I am all on the side of cleanliness but even I was appalled at the alternative prospect of carrying all the trash in the back pocket of their jeans.
There are ‘keep city clean’ signs everywhere. The authorities want the city clean? Where’s the trash can?