Swachch Bharat? Sach Bharat.

My first employer had an entire day assigned just for this session on "Speaking up", back when I had just joined the organization. But I've come to understand its importance only recently.

To & fro, I travel everyday for nearly 3.5 hrs, and in the past few months, I've been using more of public transport than I've ever done, and I come across various classes of people all commuting in harmony, and sometimes even amidst mini stampedes. Dailies of many languages are sold at the railway stations, and Chennai, surprisingly to me, seems to have a lot of diversity, at least in its literate crowd. There are college students chatting loud all the way; drunkards sitting at the entrances conversing with their imaginary; old vendors rushing into the general compartments with all their commodities that would pay them for the day; mid-aged couple fighting some family issue out, while continuously trying in vain to control their soaring voices; a mother boarding a compartment, sitting near the pathway taking nothing more than a steel plate & a twig, and starts beating the plate with the other, while her(?) children perform acrobatics & then begging through the compartment, and calmly shift to the next at the next station.

Looking at all these, one can only feel helpless about oneself - one can help neither oneself nor others, for one doesn't simply question what happens around them. Why can't one ask the noisy students to, at least, be a little less louder? Why can't one ask the vendors to get into the vendors' compartment? Why can't one tell the mid-aged couple that settling their differences in public doesn't sound good bu only remains an annoyance to their co-passengers? Why can't one who can't bear the sight of those children begging, talk to their mother(?) of seeking refuge in an NGO / something?

Okay, I've absolutely no idea about the last point, for I myself have been trying to find an answer. But I think you get my point. The common man, is mostly oblivious to his universe, as long as things don't affect him in any way. True, there are exceptions, and the need of the hour, IMO, is many such exceptions - those who question, or at least voice their opinion out on what they feel to be uncomfortable. 'putting up with things' seems to have become our national hobby - just like forgetfulness is a national disease. Instead, 'speaking up' is what I think should replace it.

I didn't mention one common thing I find in my daily commute, and to begin with, that's the one particular thing I've been speaking up against - littering. I think I can confidently say that I've encountered every possible comeback to my question, "Why can't you keep it with you & later throw it in a dustbin?"

The best & worst answer, I'd say, is of course, the eternal, "Who're you to question that? Mind your own business."

There was a guy who was spitting at 3 - 5 stations consecutively, and when I walked up to him & simply gestured a "Why?", he looked ashamed and didn't do it anymore. Win - win, IMO.

A group of employees, aged, I think, 30-50, got in & sat in my row. They were visibly happy over the end of their day's work, and were having some food. The moment they were done, one dropped the cover on the floor, and I told him that he could've disposed it off properly, later. He got into a defence-mode and started arguing if he was the only person to litter, even extending his argument over moral questions as to whether women dress appropriately / couples behave well / politicians are disciplined / Swachch Bharat Abhiyaan is just about photo-ops. Well, the best answer to an accusation is simply another. Even worse, his colleague went onto say that I was right to ask him, but the way in which I did wasn't: I should've picked that cover up myself, and that would've made him feel ashamed & thus change him forever. Man, it's really hard to please some members of the public out there!

Another evening, I was looking through the window, when someone asked me to throw something out of it. As usual, I asked him to dispose it off later, and he sat down. Just a few seconds later, he stood up, murmured something at me, and threw it off himself, despite my resistance. I raised my voice, and tried to gather support from the co-passengers asking them to have their say against this. Dead silence in what sounded like a market just a moment ago.

A college student & her friend were done with their snacks, and just in time, I laid my hand across the window, stopping them from throwing the wrapper off. She smiled at her friend, saying, "Swachch Bharat!", and after a few seconds, "nice yaar!"

Another elder, when being questioned for his littering, asked if I have no respect for his age, and went on to accuse me of not offering him my seat earlier.

It's certainly bloody hard to deal with such people who refuse to answer you but stack layers of accusation in their defense. But that doesn't mean they should stop being questioned. That only stresses the need to voice oneself out & seek a reform that one wishes to see. This is gonna sound cliche, but seriously, dude! be the bloody change you wanna see! Change, if you haven't already.

Next time you're on the road / in a public transport and someone litters, step out of your cave and look daggers / question / shout at the litterer & speak up! Seriously! At least, talk out loud, click your tongue, murmur that they're incorrigible; To put it short, do something about it!

I've had the opportunity to learn a teeny tiny bit of Krishna Yajur Veda, and one verse in it says, "नाप्सु मूत्रपुरीषम् कुर्यात् | न निष्ठीयात् | " - simply meaning, "One shouldn't urinate on water. Neither should one spit into it. ". Even by a modest dating of 3000 yrs, it's hard to believe, and at the same time shameful, that a civilization that had once conformed to such a level of cleanliness is now being reduced to rubble, piece by piece.

Sigh! Peace!


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