When you travel abroad and get to actually see how other countries (not necessarily first world countries) address issues related to urban infrastructure, garbage or mass transit, you may be tempted to think, “Hey, if these schmucks can do it, definitely we too can.”
Well, I have to cut you off from that reverie right there. You can’t, even if someone bribes you with a billion dollars. There have been times when I was also lulled into believing it is possible after seeing newspaper headlines like “Kerala to be garbage-free”. I remember one such announcement 4-5 years ago by the then LDF minister, which had all the required jargons – ban plastic, intensify this, enforce that, follow-up there, suck up here, etc. Recently, this government also launched (is it re-launched) a new, fresh drive. I hope to see the next LDF government to re-re-launch the drive in another 4 years.
There is a reason I think this, and many other things, will not work here in Kerala or India. And that reason was elucidated by one man some time ago. His name is Lalit Bhanot. Now, here is a dishonest man who gave a brutally honest opinion. His response to a pile of doo-doo on a shower floor in CWG village was, “Everyone has different standards about cleanliness. The Westerners have different standards, we have different standards.” I immediately liked this guy. We, as a people, have this extraordinary tunnel vision to see only the good parts. We have Photoshop built inside our eyes to brush away the piles of filth around our glitzy apartments and malls. We have nostrils that are immune to stink. We find it difficult to throw a piece of paper from an ATM into the trash can provided (explains why we are not good at basketball). We work in the IT field, live in swanky apartments, wear jeans and t-shirts, and have nice cars which we use to drive down to the nearby Akkulam lake and dump our $**t into the lake (personally saw it; didn’t have the time to get down and kick the $**t out of her). The politicos and other worthies who lead the annual cursory cleaning efforts pile up everything and burn them in front of TV cameras, leaving behind half-burnt piles of plastic, Styrofoam and carcinogenic fumes that the TV cameras don’t see, while creating a space where people come and dispose off more of their filth.
I was involved in a clean-up operation with our residents association. My idea was for a group of us to go around and sweep up the garbage and get the corporation to take it away. The first part was vetoed immediately. “No, no, we’ll just get a few migrant laborers and they will do it.” Don’t want to get our hands dirty; don’t mind making our land dirty –seems to be our motto. It took a few days for the guys to cover the entire area and in between I fell sick. Well, the streets were clean (though it didn’t stay like that for long) when I came out next but I was shocked to learn that the garbage was not taken away by the corporation. Instead, they paid some guys to take it away, who probably dumped it in the highway somewhere. If there were some soft object nearby, I would have banged my head against it (no point in hurting my head). That’s when Mr. Bhanot’s view really sunk in and I realized the futility of trying to explain why moving a pile of crap from here to there IS NOT cleaning.
So, if any of you guys have grand dreams, just forget it. Sit back, enjoy the ride up $**t creek, accept our inner scumbags and stop blaming our politicians and officials. Remember, they are also us. FIFO – Filth In, Filth Out.
P.S. Monorail, maglev saga continues. The latest idea is Pods for Trivandrum. I didn’t even bother to read the report fully. Our CM would have loved it, as it will give him another opportunity to save millions of rupees for the people of Trivandrum. Y’know, we already have pods. A few people get in, give the destination and the pod takes you there and you pay the fare. It is called a frikkin auto-rickshaw. Some tweaking is necessary with the rates and the software installed in the morons who drive it, but otherwise it is perfect.
The guys who dream up these things have peapod-sized brains filled with slush and two brain molecules - one to control their mouth and another to control their anal sphincter. And they disgorge the same stuff through both holes.