Imagine standing at any of the international airports in India and asking those Indians who are returning from abroad a simple question: “How did you find the city or cities that you have been to?” Most of them would give you an answer with an expression full of amazement and cheerfulness: “It was so clean out there.” At the same time, they may have a thing or two to say of the lack of cleanliness in their own home city or town in India. However, will they be really concerned about the fact that they may themselves be responsible at least in some measure for the “litter, litter everywhere” situation in India?

I travel in shared autorickshaws a lot, which gives me an opportunity to study people around me. A well-dressed, educated girl sitting beside me, busy talking on her phone, takes out a chewing gum from her bag and without a second thought throws out the wrapper. I am unable to interrupt her because she is busy talking. After a few minutes, there goes a well-chewed piece of gum, flying in the air, out the window. At that point I lose my patience and question her: “Couldn’t you wait for a while and throw that in the dustbin?” With an agonised face she answers back: “It’s none of your business. And anyways it’s already not at all clean outside, so how and why does it matter?”

At that moment, somewhere in the back of my mind I started imagining how I would talk logic to that young woman: “What’s the point of collecting so many degrees in life, when you couldn’t retain a simple lesson taught in the nursery school: “Use dustbins, do not litter.”

What’s the point of blaming slums, when you yourself splash out a can of juice from your car and move on at some speed?

Gandhiji said: “Education without character is worthless.” Just sit for a minute and ponder this.

shashwatidiksha@gmail.com

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