Dear Aamir,
At the very outset, I am a fan of yours. It excites me to hear you referred to as Mr.Perfectionist, and to read about all the effort and hardwork you put in for each of your roles. I also believe that you would do only what you truly believe in. It is very inspiring, refreshing and comforting. But I am not going to talk about that, or about your latest movie, or about the latest hot topic – the elections.
I want to talk about the campaign that you are part of, called Aditi Devo Bhava. Before I begin, I want to assure you that I am all for it, and I have always been. I cringe when I see our people being disrespectful to visitors (desi or foreign) and taking advantage of their ignorance. I hate it when I see people dirtying the roads, urinating by the roadside or throwing garbage outside their car windows.
I fully support the intention behind the Aditi Devo Bhava campaign, and I hope that at least a handful of people who watch it are inspired to show some respect to others or to stop throwing banana peel out their car windows. However, I would like to bring two things to your attention, to show that even those of us with the best intentions contribute unwittingly to representing our country in a bad light:
I belong to Kerala, though I live in Bangalore. Twice a year I visit my parents in Trivandrumand stay with them for a couple of weeks. For the past two years, Trivandrum has been facing a huge issue related to garbage. There used to be a garbage recycling plant at a place called Vilappilsala. It stopped functioning over two years ago. There were several reasons. However, what it means to the residents of Trivandrumis that, there will no longer be garbage pickup from their homes. They have to dispose of it themselves. I am sure you have figured out what I am driving at. My parents have a small garden. The daily food waste serves pretty well as manure for the plants. At the corner of the garden, there is a place where they can burn paper waste. However, there are still materials that cannot be burnt or thrown to the plants. Not all waste can be recycled at home. There is nothing they can do. These waste get thrown to a pile at some obscure corner of the colony. Everyone else in the vicinity does the same. Can you imagine the plight of people living in small apartments without even space for a couple of pots of plants?
The second point is about peeing on the streets. I hate it when I see men standing on the roadside, relieving themselves as if they were in their own bathrooms. As a woman, I have had to struggle with this problem every time I travel. I need to wait till I find a hotel or some place where there is a bathroom, dirty or smelly or unclean as it maybe, closing my eyes and nose to the unbelievable sight and stench. I have made a long-distance bus wait for me for ten minutes (with all the passengers watching) while I walked into a roadside house and asked them permission to use their bathroom. Another time, a friend and I walked into a shady hotel and asked them if we could use the ladies’ room, and came out without even buying a cup of tea. And I wonder, if a woman can go through all the trouble, why can’t men? Why do they feel the roads are their property to dirty as they please? Let me tell you at this point that my son is eight years old. Having children of your own, you know how they can be. If you show them a bathroom and ask them to go, they say “I don’t want to.” Five minutes later, they are screaming that they need to go urgently. By then we are in the middle of nowhere and the only option is to show him the roadside. Let me tell you, Aamir, that however much I hate it, I have had to do this countless times when travelling with my son. Even in the heart of the city. Even if I hate what I am making him do. Even if I know that my son is going to grow up thinking the roadside is intended for this purpose. Because I do not have an alternative.
I am sure you are aware of most of this. If Mohammed does not go to the mountain, there is only so far that the mountain can come to. It has its own limitations. If the government does not have a way to clear the garbage, the people have no option but to throw the indestructible waste wherever they can. If there are no pay-and-use facilities by the roadside, every few kilometres, we are forced to dirty our own streets.
I am sure there are things we can do as citizens. There are probably ways we can get around this. I think both hands must come together to clap – the attitude of the people and the support from the authorities. Aditi Devo Bhava is a very good initiative in spreading awareness and I wholeheartedly applaud the intention behind it. However, there are practical difficulties that people face, that need to be resolved too.
Thank you very much.

A Mother.

I had written this some months ago, and was inspired to post this here by this blog by Anamika.