The moment I hear ‘Gadiwala aya zara kachra nikaal’ (the vehicle has come, take out your garbage), I know it is the Ambala MC vehicle which has come to collect garbage door to door on alternate days.
Wearing a double mask, I rush to the vehicle with buckets of garbage. Not that the domestic help is not there to do the job, but I love to do it myself. It gives me an opportunity to meet sanitation workers and offer them water and some eatables, of course while maintaining safe distance. It is also a good exercise for a veteran to shake out and move the limbs.
Covid has made us more humble, to value life and human beings. On some days, I lend them a helping hand by putting the garbage in their vehicle. That brings a greater josh in these boys, and a smile on their faces. They get a sense of personal touch. I convey to them that no job is small, it is how well they do it. The neighbours also watch with amusement and love to wave at them, a good way to connect from a distance during the lockdown.
Being with these underprivileged men, who toil in the sun or storm to keep our houses and the surroundings clean, is an eye-opening and enriching experience. I realise that standing in a pile of garbage, collecting and segregating it is not an easy or pleasant job. You have to bear foul smell and handle all sorts of objects. Some people make you wait, and if you move ahead without collection, then there are complaints. I am convinced that these three-four men on the garbage vehicle are doing no mean job. It needs tolerance and toughness.
Totally humbled after being with them even for a few minutes, I salute them. I think about the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched in 2014. It has not progressed as expected and we still find garbage strewn all over the place. The reasons are many, but primarily, it is our lack of civic sense. We live in muck but do not make an effort to clean it. One has seen people throwing out garbage bags from their cars and other vehicles. We, as responsible citizens, will have to realise our accountability. The authorities also need to be more proactive, and provision adequate resources and disposal systems.
But as a veteran, one will continue responding to ‘Gadiwala aya...’ and rush to these safai karamcharis to cheer them up.
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