Monday, May 14, 2012

Civic Sense or the lack of it..

In the midst of big hue and cry following the CWG scam, there was another issue that went all over in the media: Paan (chewed betel nut) stains in the bathrooms and filthy toilets in games village. One of the enlightened souls in the organizing officials even attributed this to cultural differences in perception. He also needed to remind that an Indian traveling abroad easily assimilates this difference in perception into his civic sense and quickly gets adjusted. But when he’s at his home country he finds it irresistible to spit on the walls, trash the garbage on the road. As much as these events try to jolt us to the reality around us, they still remain a passing affair. 

A common sight in my locality every day - I commute to office by bus and wait at the bus stop that is in the market area adjacent to my house. Throughout the day the market place bustles with commercial activity - swarm of people, shoppers, vendors, snarling traffic, honking cars and buses etc., all pass through a narrow one-way road. End of the day the road is littered with trash dumped out of shops, disposed bottles, half-eaten food, broken bags and plastic cups and bunch of other random garbage. The garbage keeps laying around on the road helpless, rotting until morning when the sweeper comes to clean. The garbage lays right there, off the sidewalk, where I and my fellow commuters wait for the bus. There is no dumpster around (at least I haven’t seen any). This garbage creates considerable nuisance with its stink and gives an unpleasant sight. 

The commuters are visibly ill at ease with this “Sight & Smell” spectacle. Occasionally, cows or stray dogs wandering aimlessly, on catching glimpse of it, seize the opportunity to rummage through the garbage for feast. Fully enjoying this activity, they further scatter the garbage pieces. One could often catch a glimpse of the underpinning of men clothing laying in tattered conditions. At this point, while I stand there, my senses overwhelmed still recovering from this sight, I spot two women pass by me hurriedly, carrying a container full of stinking trash. They empty the container, in full view, onto already reeking garbage, and in the process disturb a huge colony of cockroaches, so far living peacefully but now scurrying for cover. Sometimes passers-by also consider it their civic responsibility to give something back to society by contributing to this mess, so they spit into it.

This illustration is not from any small town in India but from IT hub Bangalore that is proud of itself for being called as Silicon Valley of India. 

The barrage of reportage and accounts presenting a consistent image about India, that of a dichotomy of a rising democratic superpower fueled by growth of information technology, yet mired in poverty and hunger, have blunted our senses to the point that we no longer get troubled by this civic mess around us. Instead we have learnt to live with it and accepted it, the vary same way we have accepted and internalized corruption as usual mode of Indian civic life. The Condition of our cities and utter apathy of its residents is a living testimony of this fact.

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