That the banana belongs in the stomach and the peel in the dustbin, why is that so hard to understand? An uncomfortable fact that flashes in front of anyone who cares to notice, is that Pakistanis do not take their garbage home. You could be walking down any street, or driving down any road, and you will see that fruit peels and junk food wrappers almost instinctively slip the human grip and go hug the ground.
Now, why is that?
I have been a vocal lamenter of this sad state of affairs for quite some years now, and here’s what I have learned: Pakistanis have five standard reasons (read excuses) for disposing of their garbage in places other than the trashcan.
- But, I can’t keep it in my car!
These people would rather have the streets on which they are driving littered with empty cans and packages, than keep them in the car just long enough for them to get home, where they can conveniently toss them in the trashcan. They do not keep them in the shopper that they first brought them in because, guess what, they’ve thrown the shopper out too!
It may be laziness, and it may be downright disregard. But regardless of the skill, these people have an impressive portfolio, when it comes to ensuring not-so clean roads in Pakistan.
- This is a dumping site, see?
Because all free plots, everywhere, are actually legitimate dumping sites where people voluntarily empty their dustbins, say the awful optimists.
“Civic irresponsibility? What civic irresponsibility?”
“The trash belongs here!”
“Listen. There are very few things that Pakistanis can agree upon. This over-sized, open space trashcan is one of them.”
These people seem to mind neither the stench of the garbage, nor that of its eventual combustion. Maybe, and mostly, because the dumping sites are far from home.
- We have bigger problems than the banana peel.
“The Prime Minister’s son got a Cadillac, man! You know whose money it’s from? Ours!”
“That new Supreme Court judge has such a bad track record. You should see it!”
“We are most definitely getting a martial law this time. The new army chief has a moustache!”
Here is how I’d like to respond to these:
These roads you are messing up are also from your money.
You have a bad track record, too. Let the roads testify!
If a martial law can get you to stop misusing your freedom, then so much the better!
- What’s one wrapper gonna do?
This one. This one is sad. The unwillingness of Pakistanis to do something good, results from the perception that their doing or not doing would not make a difference. I say that that is sad, for two reasons.
One, it downplays the individual as the prime constituent of society. If individuals in their individual capacity do not take certain steps, it is not surprising that society will stay static, or stagnant if you will. A society has no existence independent of individuals, and as such, it cannot have an impact that is independent of them either. If you want to see your society somewhere, you will have to walk there yourself, instead of waiting for the society to drag you there.
And two, whether or not it makes a difference, should not matter. There are good things and there are bad things. When it comes to adopting habits, the good we should, the bad we shouldn’t. It is meaningless to seek reward and recognition for it. The right thing should be done for the simple reason that it is the right thing to do.
- Come on! This is Pakistan!
This, is just heart-breaking. That this is Pakistan, should be reason to take your garbage home, not to throw it on the streets. I am way past the stage when we used to have a good laugh at all things Pakistani. It is not funny, anymore. It is not funny that we have made a mess of our country. Not funny that we do not demonstrate a sense of ownership. Not funny that we take the humiliation of this maternal entity, lightly.
For me, every wrapper that slips out of a Pakistani’s grip, is a shout-out to Pakistan that you do not matter. It is my car that does, or my home, or whatever. It is a disgrace. It is an insult. It is the most frequent violation of the promises we make every 14th August. It is also the most blatant.
So, pray, do Pakistan a favour. Grip your garbage hard and take it home. Pledge that, at least, before you pledge your life to this land.