A warm Saturday afternoon and I realized that I needed some stationery. Being a wonderfully cool day, with a lovely breeze blowing, I decided to walk to the local market.

The first assault happened as I stepped off the elevator. The stench of the creek or “khaadi” as it is called, strong enough to make your toe nails curl and remind you of last night’s dinner, hit me. The breeze didn’t help at all, as I suffered the stench for the next few minutes until I could turn my back to it. I have been told that this “khaadi” stinks because we have pollutants being released into the back water. Of course, the mangroves that once protected the back water have given way to a spanking new Mandir, which as holy as it may be, is no match for the stink.

As I stepped out, and dodged a wily auto rickshaw from running me over, I leapt onto the pavement, all six inches of it. Yes, as we all know, there are no pavements left in Mumbai for the pedestrian; just an unending line up of motorbikes, cars and fruit sellers who are the current owners of the  pavement.  So I weave in and out of the line up of vehicles, using the third eye on the back of my head for speeding motorbikes and auto rickshaws, while my two eyes in front spot safe spots to place my feet. The street that resembles the lunar surface, is of no help and since I haven’t been equipped with an astronaut’s jump suit, I can’t do a quick hop and jump over the craters.

I arrive at the street corner sweaty and irritated and land in, horror of horrors, a pile of garbage left behind by the friendly neighbourhood ‘kelawala’ and vegetable vendor.  As I spy a few rats and they spy me, I feel a sudden tightness in my belly. I stare at my fancy flip flops and wish I had put on a pair of combat boots to march through the trash! No escape and no retreat now, I am in the thick of it…so I add speed and manage with a few quick jumps to land in the lane leading to the store.

A small stretch of peace looms ahead as I walk. I am reminded of an old Films division animated film where the protagonist after having garbage and dirty water flung at him, loses his cool and starts kicking the trash from the street straight back into the homes. Remember? I feel no different.

So what will it take to have clean streets, continuous pavements, no stench, no honking? Will Mumbai have to wait for a plague before we come to our senses or can we choose to be different and take charge of our city? Can we work to manage and develop our city the way we would like it to be? Can we create a legacy of a clean city for our children?

If you have nodded your way through this blog, then join me as I get involved in the local Waste Management Group. It’s pretty easy to join, both via whatsapp and also in person, through group meetings. As a new member I listen to aggrieved citizens engage with the local corporators and the BMC. Waste segregation and disposal are discussed with many experts offering solutions. It feels good to be in control and to work towards what we want: a clean and shiny Mumbai, something to be proud of, an environmentally sensitive and caring city that its citizens have created.

Don’t waste more time, don’t stay on the sidelines. Join.

Go to the contact us page on this website and sign up as a volunteer today.

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