It’s not often that you get up early on a Sunday morning and go on a long drive. But when I did that this wannabe winter morning, it was nice. Oh, not just because of the weather or the lazy weekly off feel. There was something more surreal. Enough to conclude that the change we have been yearning to see in India is finally happening.
The Eastern Express Highway stretching from Thane to Kurla was nearly empty as if it was a “Sena Bandh day” of yore. But hold on. The highway was empty, the service lanes on both sides of the highway were not. Right along the stretch of the service lane – ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls of all ages, sizes and shapes were seen – some jogging, some running and some walking briskly. The many cars seen parked in the side meant they have all come from not so near places. As I moved further, I could see people huddled together and putting up banners of their upcoming locality marathon. (Is there any activity these days without the proverbial marketing I wonder?) It looked like they have assembled for the practice runs.
Further ahead on the highway, an impressive volume of youngsters were cycling attired in fluorescent colours (as is the norm) in groups. Just about as I was begin to wonder if all this cycling and practicing for marathon running are just upper middle class or “US returned Desi” phenomena, I saw a group of young boys and men. Under the vast span of land under a flyover these guys mostly bare footed and in vests and shorts were seen carrying out some exercise regimen with a leader in the centre. (In Mumbai the areas under the flyovers mostly left vacant without any landscaping,.. come as a succour for many group activities – Exercise, Humour club, Bhajan Mandalis, Street play rehearsals,…,…)
So it appears that India or for want of empirical evidence may I say Mumbai has caught on to fitness adroitly these days or so I found today. And that this phenomenon cut across different strata of society comes as a welcome news if not as a surprise.
On my return, we took the famed L.B.S Marg which runs parallel to the Eastern Express Highway. By now it was already 9’o clock and not so early morning anymore. The tea vendors were busy whipping up Cutting Chai (for the uninitiated in Mumbai a half cup tea is called a Cutting Chai or simply Cutting) along with Vada Pav and Bun Maska to a variety of men lazing around with the morning newspaper. (In my house reading a newspaper in the morning is always associated with lazing around 😜) But along the long LBS Marg there were another set of men engaged in loftier acts. In what could be mistaken for some Aam Admi Party (AAP) event, Jhadus of different hues were being deployed and the pavements and street corners were being swept diligently. Now it dawned upon me that the Prime Minister’s call for a Swachh Bharat was indeed being taken seriously by his countrymen and the effect is trickling down. Mind you there were no cameras. So these were not Netas or film stars cleaning “already clean roads” in their locality😜. Or as somebody wondered these weren’t instances of celebrities sweeping hard “dried leaves” again and again under shady trees😜😜. Or for that matter they weren’t as we saw in Delhi staged scenes of Netas cleaning after accumulating litter 😠. Or not as I saw a few days ago – a group of people cleaning for a couple of minutes and then taking pictures with banners of their party for the next 10 minutes😠😠. In reality these were common men young, middle-aged and old cleaning with a lot of seriousness not just in one place but in different spots and stretches along the road.
And as I turned on the FM radio, RJ Malishka was heard talking to one Mr. Deshpande of a local community help group. In Dadar Shivaji Park area the civil society and Municipal Corporation have agreed upon to have a competition on which wards are cleaned and maintained better.
When the Prime Minister flagged of this now famous “Swachh Bharat Abhiyan” to turn India into a clean place by 2019 by a symbolic cleaning act and goading people from all walks of life to clean and clean, I was wondering if India will become clean by just cleaning. Ergo in my earlier post (Read here) I said that Swachh Bharat Abhiyan is not about cleaning but ceasing the need to clean. I realize today that, as aam admi get involved in cleaning (as I witnessed today) may be they will stop littering and will stop their near, dear, friends and folks from littering as much as possible. More importantly, they will convey a strong message to their children and kids around on maintaining a clean surrounding. Well that atleast is the hope.
The visible seriousness I saw over Swaasth & Swachhtha this morning has spawned a new hope in me. That Mumbai and indeed India is changing and changing for the good. And as the Prime Minister enjoys his dinner this evening in Sydney he can feel proud of himself and have an extra drink. For, his campaign for a ‘Clean India’ has hit the right spot and has begun to work. Wait a minute – did I say “extra drink?? Oops, read that as Nimbu Paani😄😄
While on this, here is LOL one from Satish Acharya: