Rajkumari Sharma Tankha
It was around 10.30 am yesterday when I reached the Botanic Garden Metro station, Sector 37, Noida. I was on way to my mom’s home in Delhi to participate in a family puja. As I alighted the steps and entered the check-in area, I noticed a long queue at one of the ticket vending machines. Among them were three women, African nationals. Smartly dressed and conversing, the trio was having burgers and coke.
And then one of them casually dropped the Styrofoam coke glass on the floor, right where she was standing. I was aghast. Frankly, never ever in the past had I seen any foreigner throwing garbage like she did! And Delhi-NCR is full of people from many countries.
“Hey, you can’t do this. You can’t throw it here,” I told her. “What?” she asked. “We have garbage bins here. Please pick it up and put it in the bin,” I told her. At first, she ignored me. Angry I was, but thankfully, I could control my temper. Again I politely told her to pick up the glass she had thrown. “I will,” she told me. I stood there. Five minutes passed. No action from her side. I kept standing there. She looked back again and told me, “I’ll pick it up.” I was in no mood to let her go like that so I responded, “Okay, I am waiting.” Another five minutes passed. Clearly, she seemed in no mood to listen to me. Then the three started talking among themselves. I was waiting. Inwardly, I was feeling a little uneasy. What if the three of them pick up a fight with me? Being Africans they were huge — tall and hefty. I was alone and no match to their physical strength. But then there were people around and security guards too — that assured me.
Then the unexpected happened. The woman bent down and picked up the glass she had thrown and moved towards the garbage bin. I smiled and thanked her. And moved ahead towards the entry point.
But why am I narrating this incident here? Is this to show myself off as a good citizen? No, not at all, though I am indeed a good citizen. This is to tell all of you the way our public spaces are treated by foreign nationals. But then can we really blame them? Not entirely. For they see such things happening every day — people throwing banana peels and empty chips packets out of moving cars – especially the swanky luxury ones — in the middle of the road; children casually dropping paper peels of ice cream cones, toffee wrappers and chocolate covers while moving on the pavement (never have I seen their parents reprimanding them) and men urinating on roadsides.
Some years back when I was working with the Hindustan Times, I actually saw a middle-aged woman relieving herself on the roadside on, hold your breath, on Barakhamba Road. Now that is the heart of Delhi. It was around 7.30 pm and I was returning home from office. I was shocked beyond words and questioned her for this act. “It’s an emergency. Aap kya karenge aise mein,” she counter-questioned me. Disgusted, I had moved without answering her.
The green belt along the Deen Dayal Upadhyay Marg at ITO in New Delhi, where the head offices of almost all he political parties are located, is full of trash, thanks to the kids who study in the school located here. There are several hawkers selling eatables, sweets and ice cream near the educational institution. Daily, around 2pm, the pavement gets swarmed with school kids, scores of whom buy things from these hawkers and then carelessly throw the waste on pavement and on the green belt. There are parents and there is school staff too. But never have I seen anyone telling children against doing this. Though the civic agency has installed two huge garbage bins, they remain empty most of the time. Many times I have requested students not to do this, and they do listen. But then I am not there every day, all the time…
So the Botanic Garden incident is to tell you all to start respecting public spaces and keep them clean. People, please pull up those who treat our public areas, our parks and our roads as open garbage dumps. For if we don’t stop dirtying our public spaces, if we don’t set a good example before tourists or other foreigners who are studying/working here, a time will soon come they too will start throwing their garbage on our roads too. If we don’t value our nation, why would any foreigner do?