Something you will discover about India is that there is a huge patriotic streak that runs through every citizen, but it only surfaces when they feel threatened, or as I believe, insecure about something – I have sat through frequent rants about how India is so much more enlightened and a better country than the West will ever be, usually after having made an innocuous statement like “India has poor people”. There is an inbuilt resistance to not wanting to hear anything bad about the country and in some ways I guess that is quite patriotic.
Oh yes, if you are Indian and you are reading this then I should forewarn you that you might get a little bit upset because I’m about to insult your country and your litter culture. While I welcome your comments and thoughts about the Indian attitude to littering there is no need to vent about something unrelated like the “western superiority complex”. The issue at hand is litter. Stick to it 🙂
The modus operandi for Indian citizens is to have a mutual dislike with neighbouring states, much like the rivalry between England and Scotland. The dislike intensifies when talking about North India and South India. The South believes the North are all stupid (and given the latest case of student visa fraud in the UK, they may have a point) and the North generally regards the South as prudish and socially repressed (which again, is a fair point!).
But that all changes the moment someone insults or makes fun of India and you suddenly find that you have 1.2 billion very angry citizens to contend with.
Jai Hind. (roughly translates to “Victory to India”).
Take for example the racist attacks in Australia. The whole of India is currently united in their hatred of Australia with the forums and blogs full of tirades denouncing Australians as fundamentally racist.
(This of course coming from a country with a thousand years of the Caste system and where low caste communities have barriers and walls built around them to stop them coming near areas of high caste community, or where low caste people have to be buried in separate cemeteries to high caste people, or can’t even enter a temple of their faith)
Anyway, for a country that can be so patriotic and united, they appear to have very little respect for the land in which they live. It’s perfectly normal to be driving along, drinking a bottle of Coke and when you are finished with it, wind down the window and chuck it out, no matter where you are, or who it might hit.
Car interiors are kept spotlessly clean because whenever you are finished eating or drinking anything the packaging goes straight out the window. It doesn’t matter if it’s paper, plastic, metal, with not a thought for the environment (or who it might hit as it’s launched from the car) it gets unceremoniously dumped.
Thinking of taking the family out (and this is India, the immediate family will consist of 40 people) for a picnic on a Sunday afternoon? They will certainly come back with less than they took because all the food packaging, wrappers, containers etc. will be left behind, not even placed in to a bin, joining the rest of the litter from other family picnics.
When my company had a sports day, catering was laid on, plastic cups and plates were provided along with water bottles. At the end of the day when people were leaving what happened to all that rubbish? It was left behind, strewn across the playing fields, a job for someone else to pick up.
The point I’m trying to make here is that having a disregard for the environment and others around you isn’t a problem of the minority of people or even a majority of people. This is EVERYBODY. It cuts through age, gender and socio-economic boundaries.
I was on a very scenic railway while in Ooty – it’s actually a UNESCO world heritage site. I was sat in the first class carriage and a very wealthy middle class man in his early thirties was with his family. He was giving drinks and snacks to his young daughter and as she finished them he simply threw the packaging out the window, despite signs all over the place pleading people not to throw their litter.
I’ve challenged a few people on why they just throw their rubbish in the street instead of waiting to find a rubbish bin or taking it home and putting it in a bin there. The answers range from “why should we make our car get dirty” to “I feel tired carrying it around” to the ever arrogant “poor people can pick it up and sell it as scrap“. Yet bizarrely the same people will also agree that dumping rubbish is a big problem and people shouldn’t do it but without acknowledging that they are responsible for it.
Just why people drop their rubbish without a thought could take a deeper understanding of Indian culture than I’ve got in the last two years, but my own theories extend from the fact that middle and upper class people are so used to having other people do their dirty work (even I have a maid who cleans my apartment each day) that they are able to drop things in their own home and the maid will clean it up instantly. Whether it’s food packaging or spilt drink, the culprit rarely has to clean it up themselves.
Even in the office, an office boy will hand out small paper cups of tea and coffee and then has to go around clearing them all up as the office staff will not put them in the bin, or worse, simply drop them on the floor.
Another classic example of this just happened tonight at the restaurant where a portly middle aged gentleman knocked his glass off the table shattering it and spilling water everywhere but made no attempt to help out or even acknowledge the fact, he was more concerned about getting another glass of water. Even as the water and glass sat on the floor the waiters continued as if nothing had happened. Eventually a small boy came along with a dustpan and brush and cleaned up the mess – the gentleman in question didn’t even apologise or thank the person for cleaning it up.
I think it’s this “I’m too good to clean up any mess” attitude that they take with them when they go out of the house, to them dropping their litter and trash is as normal as breathing, they’ve always done it, everyone else does it, so what’s the problem? As I said, there just isn’t any thought about how it might affect others or the environment, as long as the used packaging is no longer in your life, who cares what happens to it.
This uncivilized and thoughtless attitude is carried over to the incredible beauty spots all over India. Despite a million signs and rubbish bins, Indians continue to drop their litter as if they are too good or too worthy to be carrying rubbish and somehow it’s the responsibility of the poor and low caste to clean it all up for them.
Now, I’m writing this blog post in Ooty, one of the most beautiful places in all of Tamil Nadu with breath taking scenery everywhere you look, and yet despite the awe inspiring views around me, I found that I was becoming increasingly annoyed with the middle class Indian for the complete and utter disrespect they have for their country, other people and ultimately, themselves.
What should have been an entry of stunning scenery instead turned in to a rant about disrespectful Indians with no civic sense whatsoever. It’s not even as if they can claim there is no where to put their rubbish as there are bins literally everywhere.
I’ve included photos in the hope that it shames at least some people to think twice before throwing the empty water bottle, cigarette packet, tissue, crisp packet or coke can out the car window when they are finished with it.
Now, cue angry responses from Indians who claim they don’t drop any litter at all!