Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Trash in India - "Cleanliness is next to godliness"

In my school in India, General Education Academy, where I studied from 3rd to 10th, there would always be a quote or a thought at the top of the blackboard, and it changed everyday. These sayings including the usual "Make hay while the sun shines," or "An idle mind is the devil's workshop." There is one saying, however, that is frequently used in India, "Cleanliness is next to godliness."

India is a country of stunning contradictions. Vast slums sit beside beautiful bungalows and high-rise buildings where elites live. Peace of mind, body and soul preaching Hinduism is practiced in cities where people honk their horns constantly even if there is a traffic jam that you can't do anything about. And the most incredible of contradictions - people live and die around keeping their houses clean while they deface the environment and landscape around cleanliness next to godliness?

Most middle class people in India, at least in Mumbai, have someone employed that comes to wash dishes (once for lunch, once for dinner), wash clothes (once a day), and clean the floors (once a day, first sweep the floors, then wipe them down with water). Needless to say, the interiors of homes in India are spotlessly clean. People are so meticulous about this cleanliness, that they organise their days around when the servant comes to clean the home. This stands in stark contrast to how people treat their exterior surroundings. We used to live on the ground floor (or first floor in USA) of our apartment building in Mumbai. Since gravity acts downwards, we would notice people throw things, food, dough, banana skins, water, etc. out of the window. Sometimes the little balls of dough would land on cars with a big thump. I remember this one time when my neighbour walked outside one morning going to work, dressed in a nice sari, and ten feet out, got water, probably a little dirty, dumped on her. When people buy a little pack of chips or an even smaller pack of mouth freshener or tobacco, people thoughtlessly throw the plastic packaging on the side of the road, or in the middle of it, our out the window.

Why is it socially unacceptable to have your house even the slightest bit untidy, but absolutely fine to throw whatever you please on the road, or anywhere outside your home? (This results in pictures that I posted in my previous post.) With 1.2 billion people, it is easy to admit defeat in trying to change people's habits, so maybe people live by the motto "chalta hai." (Chalta hai translates roughly to it's fine, don't worry, just do whatever you want to.) The entire country does run on this attitude, which at times is wonderful, but at times frustrating and dangerous, especially when it comes to waste and trash. You can walk through beautiful parts of cities, towns and villages and still be presented by landscape-scarring trash. I still haven't figured out exactly what drives this attitude, but if you have any thoughts, please let me know...

1 comment:

  1. Very true..India is facing serious issues with hygiene and cleanliness.We, the team Ideators have started this campaign called "Keep India Clean" which aims to generate awareness and desire for action against public spitting, public urinating and public littering. Please comment or give opinion on the following blog posts -
    1. Do these pictures bother you?
    2. Your Experiences with the truth.
    3. The "Keep India Clean" campaign.
    4. "Keep India Clean" Campaign: Mascots unveiled.
    5. Video Ad - Whats the point?

    Here is our Facebook page :-
    Here is our Twitter page :-!/keepindiaclean

    Thanks and Regards,
    Team Ideators