The other day, my seven-year-old grand-daughter surprised me. We were commuting from Delhi to Gurgaon; suddenly at a red light, I heard her shouting “Dadaji, don’t dirty the road, otherwise you will have to clean it”. My first reaction was that of shock; I thought she was addressing me. Then I realised that she always called me ‘Dadu’. It was then that I noticed that she had wound down the glass window next to her and was sternly admonishing an elderly, prosperous looking man who had opened the rear door of his swanky Mercedes and was going to spit out his paan. The poor guy was so frightened, that he quickly shut the door and, I think, sprinkled part of his mouthful on his own clothes.
I wish our kids are always as vigilant. I also wish all those so admonished would listen to little kids. Our roads would be a lot cleaner! People are forever flicking their cigarettes outside and throwing stubs on the road — once I had worked out how it all adds up to tonnes of garbage — throwing out banana and orange peels and wafer bags without a care in the world about the roads or the traffic behind. Paan is, of course, the most disgusting by far. Not only does it make the roads filthy, its so nauseating to see someone spitting out the dirty red stuff. And, doubly disgusting to see it mostly comes out of big limousines and from the mouths of owners and not drivers.
Indians are known the world over as very particular about their personal hygiene. They always want hotel rooms with attached baths — which in Europe can cost a lot more than the ones that share a bank of toilets and showers on each floor — because they must bathe morning evening even in the sub-zero winters of US, Europe and Japan. And yet the same “personally clean” Indians won’t think twice before depositing garbage from their homes in the service lane behind or on a vacant plot.
How often do we find construction debris (malba) dumped quietly on the empty plot next door by someone spending a crore or more on construction, but skimping on a few hundred rupees for removal of the malba. How often do we come across people constructing houses with impunity without a care in the world about discomfort to the neighbours. They wouldn’t even install a tarpaulin screen, they would work round the clock, dump material all over the street, cut up phone lines and broadband fibres; at times even take an authorised power connection from the overhead cables.
Don’t we install on-line booster pumps, so we can get more water than the neighbours; place our gensets outside to save ourselves from the noise and pollution — hell with the people next door — encroach part of the road in front of our houses and then fight over parking space. I’ve even heard of people bribing MCD guys and getting a “¾” water connection against the official “½”.
How many motorists dip their headlights for the convenience of on-coming traffic; how many respect right-of-the way on roundabouts and hill roads; how many follow the rule of lane driving when no policemen are around.
Most of us live for ourselves and our families, and the state and the country come way down in the pecking order. Most of us are selfish to the core when it comes to use of common facilities. Most of us don’t care about others’ comfort and safety For sustainable development, we must learn to care about others too.