When visiting India, one thinks of its millenary culture, its spirituality, the Taj Mahal, Jaipur and Rajasthan, and all the amazing attractions this wonderful country has to offer. But the sad truth of one of the most populated and fast growing nations of the world is far from the image of happy nomads traveling from one area to the next.
Slums surround the big cities and the bigger the city, the bigger the slums and, therefore, the larger the quantity of rubbish. These shantytowns are mainly built with corrugated metal, plastic sheets and wooden planks. Small dark alleyways look into constructions with large rooms overflowing with sacks of rubbish. Lorries deliver the huge sacks to the various areas, where people diligently wash and clean the recyclable debris. One may think that this is already bad enough, since the hygienic conditions are rather poor, but amazingly my thought was that this way of doing, will give Indians some extra time before their land will be completely covered with a layer of rubbish.
Everywhere in India is full of litter, even the countryside. It is heartbreaking to see streams and rivers filled with dark water scattered with islands of rubbish. Cows graze through the litter on the sides of the road, hill mynas make their nests out of plastic bags and goats enjoy whatever they consider edible.
Reaching the slums early in the morning, it is not uncommon to find people getting ready for their day, showering in the streets, washing their teeth, having their beard cut at the barber’s and then off to work in rubbish land, in some of the poorest conditions humanity can offer, where the only means of survival is to use rubbish as a precious resource.
My attention was captured by a little girl, living in a bright blue hut, surrounded by ladies peeping out of the door wearing colourful saris. Her smile was captivating: the picture of happiness. To think that all this little girl has ever seen is mounds of rubbish in the suburban area of Mumbay, filled my eyes with tears. I would have liked to have taken her with me and show her another world, but then it dawned on me that the way our developed countries are forcing us to live does not produce happy individuals even in the best of conditions.
We are completely losing touch with nature, with ourselves. I am reminded of this everytime I visit a country where people live the best way they can. The light is these peoples’ eyes is bright, their gaze deep, profound, alive, unlike most eyes I look into in our cities, which are empty, dull, lifeless.
With our modern day way of life, we have become slaves of a system that no longer takes into consideration human values, it is all about having, appearing, making more money, having a bigger car or house, we have forgotten what “being” means. One of the best ways to keep in touch with “being” is through nature, but we are constantly destroying her with this way of life.
At the rate that India and China are growing and the quantity of rubbish they are producing (consisting mainly in plastic bottles and wrappings); not to mention what we have already produced so far, we are seriously heading for a point of no return. Water is already scarce in many areas of the world but where it isn’t, it is being poisoned daily. The same goes for the earth, the air and the environment as a whole. We are constantly producing and consuming and have no idea how to dispose of the surplus. Just because we can’t see it, doesn’t mean it isn’t there.
The dangerous way of living we have adopted in the last decades is taking us to produce more and more and to dispose of everything once we don’t need it. This is having a huge environmental impact all over the world, especially in emerging countries. There is no way to stop this process either, but what we can do, is to be as environmental friendly as possible, as this beautiful planet is in our hands to look after and not to use and abuse and dispose of. I would like to imagine my little friend from the slum playing on green hills and picking flowers, rather than rummaging through mounds of rubbish picking litter...