Thursday, July 8, 2010

Forget about Incredible India, can we have a Clean India?

Are you on the side of those who make India hang her head in shame or those who raise her head in pride?” asks Aamir Khan in an ‘Incredible India’ advertisement. I am as big a patriot as the next person, but sometimes, queries buzz about inside my head querulously. Is there any harm in talking about those aspects of our country that could be wished away!
Do you need that big gob of spit that just misses your big toe on your way to an important appointment? Or that red-flecked liquid spewed out so casually in a traffic snarl? What could be worse than that giant phlegm-filled hawk that begins from deep inside a champion ‘spitter’, making you wince and shut your eyes and ears in anticipation of the actual event? And those artistic red squiggles on pristine walls, winding staircases, and ironically, below signs which scream “Please do not spit here!”
What about male members of the human species with undoubtedly canine habits, when they sight a vacant wall, and proceed to let loose in public? The movie ‘Three Idiots’ has a funny yet effective way of dealing with this, where the culprit receives a gentle jolt, just enough to bring him to his senses, yet do no permanent harm! Pedestrians are often caught between the devil and the deep sea; is it safer to sink into excreta, or step off the pavement and be hit by a bus! Tread on mush or turn into mush, as it were!
The tagline of Lays Chips [no one can eat just one!] rings true as one perceives bright wrappers forming part of the vast garbage dump that our roads have turned into. Plastic bottles, cans, fruit peels and groundnut shells turn the picture murkier! On one memorable suburban train ride from Guindy to Chetpet, I walked in confidently to a deserted corner in the Ladies’ compartment, only to be assailed by a stench that made my insides churn. Someone had let her child squat on the floor and left the evidence behind! ‘Incredible India’, anyone?
On occasion, people do clean up the beaches, a laudable task indeed! But more important is to drill the idea into heads that littering is damnable! If there were no litter, there would be no need to clean up either! And no bubble gum under bus seats or used sanitary pads clogging up public toilets! Keeping one’s home clean is all very good, but throwing one’s trash into one’s neighbour’s compound is unforgiveable!
Historians, film makers and teachers turn blue in the face, trying to inculcate respect for ‘India’s vast cultural heritage’! Yet modern Lotharios go down in history, using sharp implements to etch their names on age-old structures. Thus ‘Rahul loves Sunita’ hits the eye, as you walk in with reverence, and are forced to imbibe history with modern romance. I say, increase the entrance fees to our valuable monuments! Art is meant for the common man, not for the man who is ‘common’ in behaviour! The money earned could help maintain the said monument to ensure history does not become the dead past!
Anna Salai came alive when the side walls were adorned with paintings - from Ravi Varmas and pastoral scenes to flora and fauna. Unfortunately, down came the rain, and washed everything clean! The mammoth effort went down the drain literally, along with loads of money and artistic labour. Now more paint is being brought in, and hopefully the masterpieces will be made waterproof! The concept to turn Mount Road into a Manhattan, or to link the various canals to create a Venice in Chennai is appreciable, if only concrete foundations could be laid down to crystallize the same!
For the crimes mentioned earlier [for they are no less], stringent fines should be levied, and a talking-to by a stern policeman or a night behind bars, for those who cannot afford to pay. Couldn’t we make a start in our own backyards? The earlier our minds turn clean, the faster our habits will follow suit! Which brings to mind a quote that went something like this; I saw a stone on the road and wondered why someone did not shift it, till I realised that I was also someone!
Deepti Menon

23rd May 2010 - The Hindu

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