I was in Kolkata last week and was a witness to something that happens quite often on the roads of most cities in India – a car window was rolled down and trash was dumped on the road. I was in a cab behind that car and as much as I wanted to go and reprimand the person for littering the city, I knew I couldn’t since both the car and the cab were in motion. I did what a lot of us who care for such things do at such times – swore under my breath and moved on. So much for ‘Swachh Bharat’!
I was due catching a flight later that evening from the Kolkata airport. I checked in and went to a book store along with a friend. While he went inside the store, I waited outside. A moment later I was appalled by what I witnessed. A lady, who worked at the store, took a step out of the store and threw a crumbled piece of paper right outside. I was shocked that an employee was doing this, and started to walk to the entrance of the store, when a voice inside me said, “Its okay! Why bother!?” I stopped. I wanted to avoid confrontation, agreeing with my inner-voice that it won’t make any difference. People will behave the way they want to. What difference can I make?
I turned around and began to walk away. And then I thought about what happened this morning on the road, when I had thought, “If only I had the opportunity, I would teach the litterbug a lesson!” And here the opportunity had presented itself again. Was I not going to do anything…again?
I turned around again and walked to the store. I picked up the crumbled piece of paper and stepped in to the store looking for the lady who had disposed the trash. I saw her, walked up to her, and handed her the sheet saying, “You dropped this outside!” She looked at me puzzled. Taking a lesson from my earlier similar experience (You don’t say it best when you say nothing at all!) I added, “You threw this outside, while you should be throwing it in a dustbin.” She whispered an apology and walked away and dropped the scrap in a bin.
Even as my friend, who witnessed all of this, patted me on the back, I wondered if I had actually made a difference. I don’t know if the lady will remember this exchange the next time she is disposing trash. But what I do know is that I did what I had to do! I did what I would expect any of my friends & colleagues to do – to stand up against such deeds. And while each of us might make just a tiny little difference, the sum of all is going to be much larger than the whole. And every time we don’t act, we lose an opportunity to make our street/city/country a cleaner place.
So let’s commit to act…and create a truly swachh Bharat.