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January 5th, 2018

It’s put up or shut up time

Those of you who know me, will know that I have an absolute horror of the appalling garbage that blights so much of this otherwise beautiful country.

There is hardly anywhere in India untouched by rubbish/garbage/litter/trash – call it what you will – including somewhere as remote as the frozen River Zanskar high up in Ladakh.  I did the Chadar Trek last January, and our group would hike along, picking up other people’s trash as we walked.  Pristine stunning high altitude scenery – and chip packets and plastic bottles chucked along the trail.

It breaks one’s heart.

I am not qualified to get into the societal reasons as to why Indians litter their world with such apparent thoughtlessness.

I don’t know if it’s just a lack of education – because I have, for example, seen educated friends chuck rubbish after a polo match and tell me not to bother picking it up, because “the staff will do it”.  That attitude – someone else will pick up after me & my mess – is not only arrogant, it’s also unsustainable in today’s India.

I had the highest of hopes when Prime minister Modi came to power in May 2014, and almost immediately started a campaign of “Swachh Bharat” (“Clean India”).  Perhaps finally a politician with a huge popular mandate would be able to do something.

But beyond photo ops of Ministers pushing a few leaves hither and thither with twig brooms, I don’t honestly feel the country is any cleaner 3 1/2 years on.

Certainly attitudes haven’t changed.

Last summer, out running, I got abused by a couple (who’d been power-walking round the same park) and who threw their cups on the ground after drinking Rs50 a shot wheatgrass juice – when there was a bin right there, provided by the stall-holder.  About 6 inches away from them.

“Mind your own business, you f***ing foreigner,” was the husband’s comment when I asked them to put the cups in the bin.

So I picked the 2 plastic cups up and threw them in the waste paper bin myself.

“F***ing idiot, she is,” sniggered the wife.

I posit that these 2 were just 2 irredeemably nasty people, but it all goes to show.  You’d sort of think that power-walking, wheatgrass-juice-drinking people would be the types to put their rubbish in the bin next to them.

Not a bit of it.

I’ve written articles about the rubbish.

I’ve contacted our supposedly connected PM with photos and tweets, but nothing.

Anyway, I came to a decision this week, the first week of a brand new, shiny new year.

To put up or shut up.

Or, perhaps more elegantly, in the words of Mahatma Gandhi:

“Be the change that you wish to see in the world.”

What does mean in practice?

It means I’ve started picking up rubbish instead of walking past it, and whingeing about it.

As I said, it’s time to put up or shut up.

So I pick up and dispose of the immediate rubbish I encounter on my runs.

I’ve started Instagramming it, too, in the hope of encouraging other people and thus far, the response has been amazingly supportive and positive.

I run in my local Aravalli Biodiversity Park which, it must be said, is cleaner than most places I have seen, but even so, rubbish is there, strewn along the trails.

I watched despondently this evening as 3 young men in front of me ate sweets and then dropped the wrappers on the trail.

I came across this awful scene this afternoon:

So there you are, folks.

I am going to do my bit, limited as it is.

There seems no point in walking past litter & complaining, when you can pick it up & dispose of it.

I really and truly hope that many of you will join me in whatever way you can.

Cleaning our world, one step at a time…

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