The initiative to clean up Lottegollahalli was the brainchild of a few residents of Raj Mahal Vilas (RMV) clusters phase 1 and 2 who were keen to do something about the waste that had accumulated on our recently tarred main road. Like the garbage, our anger, frustration and the need to act was also piling up. So, after deliberating this issue many times, we decided to greet each other ‘good morning’ on 17th February, 2013 armed with face masks, gloves, brooms, rakes and shovels and most importantly, our will. When the group of us who had been strategising and motivating each other over the past several weeks, dragged ourselves out of bed on that day, little did we realise that we would have a fulfilling experience.
We were originally about 10 committed people who decided to adopt The Ugly Indian’s motto, namely, "Mooh Band, Kaam Chalu" (shut up and start work). Meeting at our gate around 7.15 am, we stepped outside and decided to attack the first of the garbage ‘hot spots’ outside LNR school. More enthusiastic volunteers from our building complex joined us soon. Happy cows who refused to budge as they were getting food without plastic were present too!
The garbage contractors were taken aback at our motley group segregating, shovelling, raking and clearing the garbage in bags, neatly and diligently. Sporting yellow face masks and ivory surgical gloves clad, we went about our duties like we were possessed. The neighbours gawked with perhaps a trace of admiration and awe, but we soldiered on. We gave gloves and masks to a delighted pair of pourakarmikas and got rangoli powder from a kind old man willing to help. A lovely lady drew a beautiful rangoli and we then moved from one place to the next.
Winding up at around 11.00 am at the mound outside phase 1, we had 38 bags filled with garbage at this site. About 3.5 feet of road from the newly laid pavement kerb having an area of roughly 2.5 feet in radius was cleared. Strong, middle-aged, young, old and the willing had all contributed to the effort. A garbage pile had disgustingly acquired cult status as it had accumulated over months and was mixed with debris, soil, dung and wet and dry waste. The stench seeped into our skins and lined our lungs. But we got more bags, shovels, a pick-axe and the enthusiasm to see it ‘finished’ rang with determination.
Women adorned the freshly minted place with rangoli. There were sweat, aching hands and shoulders, tired voices, all dripping with a feeling of absolute fulfilment. Yes, we were bothered by the waste and wanted to do something about it. And, we did it together as passers by stopped. The garbage contractor who had tears in his eyes when he noticed the bags of garbage stacked neatly, vowed to have them cleared.
It was a fun-filled, exhilarating, fulfilling and revealing experience. A mother of one of the residents and a daughter of another served us tea and water. A young girl said, "I have to submit my science project tomorrow, but here I am – cleaning my neighbourhood". Someone pledged, "I will never dump mixed garbage again". It was infectious. The men were like Jason and the Argonauts, lifting huge stones and bags, sprinkling bleach, and, attacking the mound as if their lives depended on it. The efforts of the residents of RMV Clusters Phase 1 and 2, Suchitra from Krishna Dwellington and Sridhar Pabisetty of Vidyaranyapura deserve appreciation.
Our lesson: If we want to, we can!
The next round
At 7.00 am on 3rd March, the Broom Brigade was at work again and there we were – a group of 18-19 people willing to get our hands down and dirty. This time the effort was commendable again for many reasons, but the outstanding ones for me are:
a) People like Vinayak and Julie returning finishing their personal work early so that they could participate in this activity.
b) Spouses coming alongwith or instead of those who were part of the group the previous time.
d) A little boy Umesh, aged around 9 or less helping enthusiastically. Age, caste, background no bar. Clean "baar baar" (repeatedly)!
e) The happy faces of the BVG garbage contractors, Pedappa, Ravi, Nagaraj and Shivakumar. These people do their work following a motto which we have adopted from The Ugly Indian, namely, "Mooh Bandh Kaam Chalu".
f) The group deciding to make this effort more effective by repeating it every 2 weeks.
g) Adarsh, an unforgettable, inspiring young lad from Rajajinagar (at least 10 kms from our locality) helping us because he is passionate.
We have proved that cleaning is actually therapeutic. Once you clean, you want to do more and again. Some of us kept digging with small pick-axes, shovelling, segregating and filling 21 bags of garbage. We swept the area clean, the ladies drew beautiful rangoli and we had tea, biscuits and water and felt very satisfied.
Garbage is not that bad. When you look at it from up close, it consists of paper, plastic of all shapes, hues, sizes, packets mixed with soil, stone, sand, leaves and tar. Over a period of time it coagulates into a hard mass and sometimes mixed with wet waste and dirty water, spit, probably some dung and urine (human and others’) and starts stinking. Before cleaning, we could see the road buried under at least 1 feet of mixed debris. So we cleaned up hard and well. We put dried leaves, good soil from whatever we had raked and mud like a mulch around the magnificent trees nearby and watered them lovingly. They stand tribute to our effort. The neighbouring shops supplied us with bags which we were running short of. Vasudha, a local resident, quickly bought a box of gloves when we were running short of them. When help was sought, it came.
There is a long way to go, but work has begun. We do not want to leave it midway and are grateful to each of the group members who did not shirk. Words of encouragement are great, "like" on Facebook is good, "we’ll participate later" can be considered heartening. But actually doing the work, will be satisfying. So, we appeal to all to join us now and not wait for the next time!⊕