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June 18th, 2018


On a scale of things that drive me nuts, littering ranks right up there.

Long before we all started advocating the banning of single-use plastic, and long before we runners had started plogging, I’ve been a litter Nazi.

Cannot bear it.

I have picked up trash, rubbish, litter, garbage – call it what you will – for years now, enduring indifference and ridicule (at best), and abuse and being spat on (at worst).

Here in Delhi, over the last few years, I’ve been called a” f***ing foreigner” and told to go home – that was from the entitled young man chucking beer bottles out of the window of his car, right at my feet in Hauz Khas.  He was so violent and so unpleasant that even the car guards came to see that I was OK.

I’ve been called a “f***ing crazy foreign bitch” by a husband and wife duo of runners, whom I chided for dropping their wheatgrass juice cups on the ground RIGHT NEXT TO THE BIN.

I could go on, but it’s all too depressing, and ugly, and the racism always shocks me.  I didn’t know littering had a skin tone.

Earlier this year, with my regular running companion Ripu Daman, who hates rubbish as much as I do, we decided to try and take our personal initiative a little further, and joined the plogging trend.  We started an Instagram feed and a Facebook group, both called ploggersofindia, and little by little, we are making progress.  Well, in raising awareness, that is.  The tide of garbage carelessly chucked in parks and by the roadside doesn’t seem to have diminished at all.

Neither of us thought we’d achieve instant miracles.

We’re not fools.

India not only has a massive problem with garbage, there is also an equally massive problem of a lack of civic awareness and, let’s be honest, something of an attitude problem.

If I hear one more person tell me “Oh, that’s how we are here in India” or “Yes, rubbish is a big problem, but what can you do?  That’s just how it is here,” I might just scream.

There is NO excuse for trashing our planet.  No excuse at all.

Equally, there is no excuse for accepting the status quo, with a “Oh, that’s how we are” kind of lame excuse.  No excuse at all.

Here in Delhi, we are condemned to live in a city with poor civic infrastructure – unless you’re a resident of the Lutyens VIP zone, of course.  Otherwise, garbage bins, garbage collection, recycling –  all of these are woefully inadequate, and in the absence of an effective education campaign, people will continue to litter.

So it was with great interest that I saw a short video, posted by Virat Kohli, about littering.  The whole story is nicely summed up here on the Scroll website.

(Sorry, I couldn’t get the link to Virat Kohli’s original post on Twitter, so if you haven’t already seen it, then please check here, and then the rest of the story will make sense.)

Mr. Kohli, of course, is the captain of the Indian cricket team, so is virtually a demi-god.  He recently married a pretty Bollywood actress called Anushka Sharma, and these 2 youngsters are one of the most powerful couples currently in India.

That winning combo of Bollywood and cricket means that people take notice of them and of what they say.

So to see Ms Sharma ticking off a bloke in Mumbai whom she saw throwing litter out of his car was – in my mind –  a super step in the right direction.  I work on the basis of ‘whatever it takes” and if it takes a Bollywood actress to draw attention to the mindless littering in India, so be it.

Whatever it takes to get the message out.

Which is why I am perplexed by the weird backlash to this incident.

First up was the young man who threw stuff out of his chauffeur-driven car.

He is called Arhhan Singh, we learn, and he made this statement on Instagram, along with a photo grab-shot from the Twitter film, showing him in his car & the back of Ms Sharma:

How strange is this?  “Ranting and yelling like a crazy roadside person”.

I found nothing objectionable at all in Ms Sharma’s words.  She wasn’t ranting, she didn’t swear, she wasn’t abusive.  She spoke politely, used the word “please” and so quite how this young man could describe her words as “garbage that came out of your mouth” baffles me.

As if this were not enough, the young man’s mother then weighed in, in an even stranger post:

Classic.  In oh so many ways

2 comments to Rubbish!

  • Absolutely agree with you, Anoushka Sharma and anyone else, famous or not, who remonstrated with and calls out dirty, careless, anti- good citizenship folks! Carry on doing this, all-of-us-who-care people, and just ignore the taunts by the racist narcissists.

  • So littering is not shameful but admonishing someone for littering is?
    I like the “Fear Karma” threat for being morally & “humanatarianly” wrong.
    Oh the SHAME for disrespecting my precious son!!!!!

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