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“Excuse me, is that yours?” An elderly voice struck my ears when I was waiting for a coach to return to London from Ramsgate, a coastal town. I turned towards the voice and saw an old woman, probably in her late 70s. She was pointing to a soft drink can next to me. It wasn’t mine. I hadn’t even noticed it in my anxiety that I might miss the bus. So I said no. She then picked up the can and walked away slowly. I was puzzled why she was taking that empty can. I saw her white head and tiny structure moving slowly towards the waste bin around the corner. She dropped the can in the bin and went on her way. Wow! I was amazed to see an elderly lady doing this. What an inspiring thing for everybody! I looked at myself and felt ashamed. It was a really hard punch for me who was just sitting on the bench comfortably without bothering about it. It was a great slap for the one who had left it there. The old lady who is not strong enough to carry away her own trash is here taking care of other people’s garbage. And a young person like me is loitering around doing nothing about it. Is it love for her place? Is it her awareness of clean surroundings? Maybe both. This grandmotherly lady’s act is really an inspiration for me who comes from a country where we throw our garbage out the window without any feeling of guilt.

We boastfully spit in public places without any shame. We throw our trash through bus windows. Keeping our own house clean is everything for us. We bathe, put on clean dresses and clean our house daily, but very comfortably we throw our garbage anywhere. In contrast to our behavior, people from the developed countries not only think of their houses but also of their surroundings. They are ashamed to throw even chocolate wrappings or sandwich boxes on the road. They feel uncivilized to spit in public places. That’s why their country is clean. But in our country, how many of us throw our waste in the proper places? If we want a clean environment, who will come and clean it for us if we don’t do it ourselves? If we think that our government or some organization will do it for us, it’s just a sweet dream. Waiting for this sweet dream to come true, we have already spent decades amid stinking surroundings and piles of garbage in the centers of our cities. Photographers have earned a lot of money taking pictures of the rubbish and selling them to the media. Let’s stop giving them such opportunities. Let’s start removing our waste ourselves. If an old lady can do it, why can’t we?

Source: The Kathmandu Post (November 22, 2013)
Compiled by: Janu Rai

 

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