Keeping Our Cities Clean

My daughter stays on the first floor of an independent house in Bangalore. When she first moved into this house she tried to figure out how to get her garbage disposed. The landlady downstairs has her daily help take the garbage away and keep it in a place from where the BBMP van collects it. My daughter has no daily help and she realised that the BBMP van comes at odd hours and doesn’t stop at individual houses so it is difficult to catch it. The landlady suggested that my daughter speak to the BBMP workers who clean the streets outside and get one of them to carry away the garbage. It would then become the responsibility of the worker to ensure that the garbage got into the garbage van somehow. The landlady said that 100 Rupees per month is the maximum that we should pay for this service. A white-haired BBMP worker agreed to this and the garbage from my daughter’s house started getting disposed. Now, the white-haired BBMP worker comes sometime between 7:00 and 8:00 AM, so my daughter’s task is to have her garbage kept near her small side-gate downstairs before 7:00 AM. Whenever I have stayed at my daughter’s house I have noticed the brown paper garbage bag near the gate and when I look sometime later the bag would have vanished. I have met the white-haired BBMP man only a few times but I have always felt a deep sense of gratitude towards him. I have wondered why this quiet, smiling man would go out of his way for 100 Rupees per month and I have no answer to that question. I see the vanishing of the brown paper bag as a daily morning miracle.

The other thing that I want to juxtapose with this anecdote is the large number of pet dogs of all sizes and shapes that live in the somewhat posh neighbourhood that my daughter stays in. She has to come out on to the road using the side-gate to the house and she regularly finds dog-shit just outside the gate. It seems that the dog-minders find this side-gate a quiet place hidden from normal view and utilize it as a public toilet for their dogs. There are two types of dog-minders. A few are the owners of the dogs and a small percentage of these owners carry a strange device for collecting their dog-shit (how this behaviour has been normalized is a great mystery to me). However, most dogs are with professional dog-walkers, people who are paid to take the dogs of busy people for walks. Obviously, none of the professional dog-walkers carry the strange device for scooping dog-shit.

The dog-walkers get paid many times the 100 Rupees that the white-haired BBMP worker gets from my daughter. The difference is that the BBMP worker gets my daughter’s deep gratitude and the dogs, their walkers and their owners get her curse.

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