Exposures

Sweeping to Where?

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Text by Patty Simon

Haridwar, India

Ok, this is my secret confession.
I have a very hard time with all the garbage I see everywhere.
I never want to talk about it because all I want to do is honor and respect the culture. Who am I to judge or question why this happens?
But on this visit, it was confusing. I see the trash as always but when I look closer I see children with huge bags looking for plastic (usually all the water bottles we tourists use!) that they can sell and recycle. I see young men each morning in the market cleaning out gutters under the stalls. I see sweepers around the shrines sweeping to where, I don’t know. I see signs telling the locals that an ordinance is going to be passed forbidding the use of plastic bags. And I even see an occasional garbage truck pass by – though too small to do much good and I question who uses it. My confusion gives way to the idea that to change a whole culture’s psyche about where to put trash takes time and I am seeing the beginning. Prime Minister Modi has put a priority on starting a huge initiative cleaning up the sacred Ganges River – a very smart idea as it affects every person in this country.
I keep thinking about the “No Littering” campaign in the US and how skeptical I was that it would work. It worked and because of this my confusion has changed to celebration. Maybe the next trip to India will be a cleaner one!

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