Recently a famous Basketball player visited India and commented that how the Real India was very different from the India of his imagination. How there were cows and monkeys on the road, dirt lying around and the general apathy we have towards even heritage monuments like Taj Mahal. I was really upset. And so were a lot of Indians. And he tweeted an apology the very next day. The first thought that came to my mind was ‘How dare he say something like this about my country?” But if you don’t just react and sit back and think don’t you see some truth in his words? You don’t agree??

Ok fine he is an outsider why accept his words. Let me give you another example. During summer vacations my friend visited her brother in USA along with her two school going children. After a wonderful stay of two and a half months they came back to India. Their father went to the airport to pick them up. On the way back the elder son pointed out that how dirty the Mumbai streets are, how much dirt and filth is accumulated all around. His parents were amazed at how easily the child who had stayed all his life in India got sensitized to the dirtiness in just two and a half months. Have I made my point? Now how can you not accept the words of a 12 year old?

India completed 70 years of Independence on 15th August 2017. For me among other things, one major form of freedom would be the freedom from filth, dirt, waste, rubbish, garbage, trash or whatever you choose to call it from our streets and cities which has become so much a way of life for us that we seem to accept it as part of the landscape.

Next question would be ‘Whose responsibility is it?’ The general answer would be the municipality is not doing their jobs properly, what can we do? The system is not right here… etc. etc. I agree this is their job and they are trying to do it. I have seen the municipal employees working in inhuman conditions while collecting garbage. But the quantum is so huge that they can’t keep up.

I have another question. Who is increasing their job? For this let me give you a little background. We Indians love cleanliness a lot, our houses are kept spick and span. We don’t pray without taking a bath and in some household don’t even enter the kitchen without taking a bath. But this love of cleanliness is limited only to our house or compound. The moment we step outside it becomes none of our concern. I have seen people stepping out of a Mercedes car and carrying a Gucci bag and throwing the cold drink can nonchalantly on to the street. People not segregating the garbage before throwing it and expecting the sanitation workers to go through the muck and segregate it. Garbage getting accumulated around the garbage bins because someone is not bothered to go all the way to the bin and generally toss the garbage in that direction and move on. These are only a few examples but I hope you get the picture.

So the onus to keep our city clean lies with us. We as people need to learn to show a little more empathy rather than apathy towards our public property. Have a feeling of belonging towards your surrounding and don’t do anything deliberately to make it dirty. And most important raise the children is such a way that littering is not a way of life for them. My children carry empty packs of chips or wrappers in their bags or even pockets but never throw it outside. They have become so used to this that they stop even their friends from throwing trash out of the school bus and carry their trash back home to throw in the dustbin.

Keep our city clean. This is not just an official slogan it’s our duty. Remember way back when were kids we read in our civics textbooks that “Rights and Duties are two wheels on which the chariot of life and society moves forward.” If we take our rights so seriously we should be taking our duties also seriously.

When you stand on the road and look around and can’t see or smell garbage. Then according to me we are on path to true freedom.