Once upon a time there was a road in Bengaluru. She was always dirty and ragged. No one cared for her and everyone stayed away from her. She was depressed and alone. Then one day, a fairy god-mother came and magically made her beautiful and clean. Children now walked on her paths and lovers sat on the benches. The road lived happily ever after. The End.
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This is a story of how a group of youngsters (successfully) cleaned up Mosque Road. As a person with no special inclination towards cleanliness, I must say I made a big mistake joining an NGO that is dedicated to making us regular citizens clean up the city. I must also say it is a mistake that I would happily repeat.
We were a group of roughly forty youngsters, who joined the Civic Action Workshop under the guidance of Prof. Rajeev Gowda. Some of us wanted to change people’s mind-sets and some of us had nothing better to do. The agenda was to clean up the infamous Mosque road, located in Frazer town.
There was a huge black-spot near the Mosque road drain storm. A black-spot is a place which people of an area informally acknowledge as a garbage dumping zone. Locally, that spot was called Moori point. None of us were Frazer town natives and didn’t know how things actually worked here.
We observed the spot for two days, six hours each day. We sat opposite the black spot, on the periphery of a store called Muhammad Khan Jewellers. To the left of us was the naala, a storm drain that has transformed into a sewer. A little further down the road lies the Bermuda triangle of fast-food MNC’s, namely KFC, Subway and McDonalds.
Like sleuths, we watched as people came to throw garbage at that point. We saw bikers fling garbage while in transit. We saw the wall being used as a public toilet. We saw people of different ages, gender, religions throw garbage there, showing no demographic or socio-cultural differences in behaviour. There was so much garbage on the ground that even the garbage collectors couldn’t really do more than a superficial cleaning. The stench was so bad that it wafted to our side of the road. We also did a survey of the grievances of the people regarding the black-spot.
If me and Mosque road were having a Whatsapp conversation, it would go like this:
Since actions speak louder than messages, we decided to get down and dirty (literally) and clean the place up. We wanted to achieve ‘no Garbage on Ground’ (nGoG).
Let me tell you, cleaning is not a fun job. Fun would be going bowling at Amoeba, not cleaning. Cleaning is hard-work. It is gross and wretched work. I won’t go into the details of the actual process of cleaning up as you might experience many sleepless nights if I do. What annoyed me more was the numerous bikers and passer-by saying that our optimism is flawed. They were sure that the area would go back to being a black-spot. There were also people who suspected that we had a hidden agenda for cleaning the place up. The observed us with scrutiny.
Once the first step was over and the wall was covered with bleach, things got better. As the smell of the place changed, so did my attitude. The next few steps were to make the place look aesthetically pleasing. We had mats of grass put near trees and surrounded them with bricks. Urinals were installed too. Random citizens joined in with helping us paint the wall.
We also brought in granite slabs and made them benches. After hours of relentless work, the spot seemed nothing like it did before. What awed me was the fact that this extreme make-over had been so simple. We didn’t need any magical fairy god-mother or a fat wallet. We needed hard-work, paint and lots of bleach. Together, we had managed to change an area that had been that way for years. Cleaning had given me no joy, but to see the outcome of our collective hard-work did.
Samah Mariam, a student of Christ University and was part of the Civic Action Internship conducted Bengaluru Needs You (BNY) in October 2013 led by Prof. MV Rajeev Gowda. BNY has recently launched Urban Action Internship in January.