Cleaning up the culture of littering

The blog has seen a hiatus of sorts for quite sometime, a little intentional, a little because I really had nothing to say and was all out of words and needed to catch my breath a bit and get my words back, and because, well, honestly, I was getting a trifle bored with blogging. Been there, done that, worn the t-shirt.

Today, I felt I had something to say and decided, by God, I would say it. I have been saying this in bits and pieces, but today is going to be an all out, guns at dawn kind of effort. The Clean India Swach Bharat movement launched today. In troth, I am delighted. I am all for it. I hope it goes beyond the hyperbole and the photo ops and infiltrates down into our consiousness as citizens of our country that we and only we can keep our surroundings clean, and for that first, we must take pride in our surroundings. And by extension, we must treat our surroundings and our country the way we treat our homes, by being fastidious about keeping it clean.

As a swim parent, I accompany the offspring to many a swim meet and find that the culture of littering is all pervasive. Parents will lovingly feed their child a banana and casually drop the peel down to the floor next to them. Carboplus will be given to their offspring to help them with that extra boost of energy before a race, and the empty tetrapacks discarded on the ground. Boiled eggs shelled and fed, with the shells tossed casually into a corner. One memorable moment was when I actually told a parent sitting in front of me creating a person high pile of litter next to her to cease and desist and got told to mind my own business or clean it up myself if I was so concerned. And this lady was togged out with Gucci bag and Chanel sunglasses.

Another time I told a boy, who was casually throwing the wrappers of everything he was ingesting on the floor at a swim meet to pick himself up and take it to the dustbin few steps away, and was told clearly, “That is not my job, that is the cleaner’s job.” This is a boy who is driven around in a BMW.

How do you teach children not to litter when they learn that cleaning up is not their job. That they are not responsible for the cleanliness of the space around them. That it is demeaning to them to clean up behind them. How do you tell a grown adult that he or she must not litter? That littering reveals how narrow their minds are. That public calling out for their littering a public space means nothing to them, because there are no serious ramifications for littering–no steep fines unlike other countries, where they behave and keep their litter to themselves because they know that they will be hauled up if they do.

There is no shame in cleaning up after oneself. There is no shame in telling someone to pick up their litter. But there is shame in being a people who donot care about their surroundings and are willing to live in filthy surroundings because they will not speak out, or will not maintain basic civic sense. That is what we need to clean up first, the mindset, the mindset of indifference to our surroundings, the lack of a sense of ownership of public spaces, the attitude that makes us believe we demean ourselves if we pick up litter. That is what needs the broom.

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About Kiran Manral

Author of The Face At The Window, ( 2016), Karmic Kids, All Aboard (2015) , Once Upon A Crush (2014) and The Reluctant Detective (2011).
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One Response to Cleaning up the culture of littering

  1. very correct, Kiran! its the mindset that needs to be changed… and you know, its at least possible to teach kids, but teaching adults seems to be the bigger problem! for that reason, i am happy that our new PM is setting a trend by picking up a broom himself. however, being me, i am still skeptical whether it will actually work, considering how thick skinned we seem to be!

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