Time to look back at how the last year went by. It was Christmas time. A holiday for most of us. The churches and surroundings were crowded with small businessmen trying to make a quick sale. As garbage piled up, I saw some men and women busy trying to clean up the road filling waste in bags and plastic drums perhaps to dump it in a place from where it will be taken away by a truck.

As children we often wore bigger shoes and chappals in the thought of our growing up. Were we to swap places with these people who are trying to make our life a little better? Wear their shoes or chappals for a while and clean up the place. One would shudder at the thought. And, yet, in spite of the call to segregate garbage, we do little and want the Jones and Janes or Ram and Radha to do it first. Or the government to issue an order or slap a fine.

Two bins in the house, one for perishables and the other for non-perishables. Oh yes, there are more types of garbage including dangerous bulbs or computer peripherals.

The sachet dripping with a little milk, the polythene bag that came with the tomatoes, the empty packet that came with the flour. We slit it open carelessly that it cannot be reused even once.

The sambar or curry which was in the refrigerator, for a while. The chapatti dough that we forgot to use during the week and that has turned rancid, the flowers from the puja, the leftover food from the tiffin box, stale bread, old worn-out clothes, hangars, broken scissors and a lot more things are stuffed in a single bag to be thrown into a corner.

Maids are so much in a hurry that they stuff the plastic bag into the perishable garbage bag to be thrown away. Efforts at segregation are lost. Also, we have got so used to putting the perishables in garbage bags. When that is done, the bag is secured and has little chance of the contents degrading or coming out of the bag unless it is done manually. Added to these woes are the three-day pads that are thrown away sometimes carelessly or put in plastic bags. Hospital waste is another matter that needs special mention — cut glass, needles, body parts, the list is endless.

Water, that too potable, is trickling out of a small crevice on the roadside. Is a pipe broken? Water is being wasted. Does anybody care? Calls to people concerned or emails receive no response for a while. Huge amount of water that could have made some families happy goes down the drain, adding wet waste to the already piled-up garbage.

We want a government that takes care of the garbage without “troubling’’ us. We compare the roads and surroundings with the West. Roads are so clean there. There are no piles of garbage lying around. Little do we think that we should be segregating it at home in the first place. Remember people out there cleaning the area are soiling their hands and legs just to keep our surroundings clean. They are not given gloves or shoes.

A small metal cross lies on his bare chest. His shirt is hung up on a protruding tree branch. Perhaps, he just did not want his shirt to get dirty. He was cleaning up the garbage with bare hands. No smile, regret or hate, no twitching his nose because of the stench. Just the thought of cleaning up the pile before he can clean himself and be with his family for Christmas? The woman too pulled her sari pallu closer as she piled up more in the bin. She had a string of jasmine on her plaited hair. Was she celebrating Christmas too or was it there to help her ward off with the stench?

Like everybody else make a New Year resolution and stick to it. Segregate garbage and also see that no water is wasted. Be responsible for the waste that goes out of your house. Let your hands become a little dirty so that their hands are less messy and clean.

(The writer’s email:sathyavijay1@yahoo.com)

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