At 7 am Marine Drive, where the pavement meets the road, is strewn with litter. Empty plastic bottles, aluminium wrapping from food packets, the odd beer bottle, soiled nappies sometimes, thrown onto the pavement and the edge of the street. Thanks out - of - towners, for messing up a piece of real estate that manages to look spotlessly clean from dawn, when the sweepers start their work, until late evening, when the likes of you descend to make memories and leave us with your trash.
Five years into the launch of Swachha Bharat Abhiyan and the Government's attempt to get us to clean up our act as a nation, it seems as if behavioral change still has a long way to go.
My dadi's house next to Dilli Darvaza, in Rajnandgaon, Madhya Pradesh, now Chattisgarh, was spotless. She wasn't a wealthy woman but in the two story house that she and my aunts ran not only could you eat off the floor but meals were actually served to you seated on a wooden plank with your thali resting on the floor.
The habit of throwing your trash onto the street, without a care as to whether it will be picked up, or by whom, looks like one that India's newly affluent classes have acquired, while leaving behind manners that must have been in their families at some point in time. Whether we unlearn these harmful habits, Government program or not, remains to be seen.
Families, day laborers and stragglers still lie asleep as I walk the last stretch after my run, the hot summer sun already beating down on all of us. The farmer's market is up and running alongside Mantralaya, the Seat of Government, and affluent residents from Churchgate and Nariman Point weave in and out of the stalls. A stone's throw away, in the shadow of Mahatma Gandhi's statue, the usual band of harried men and women live on the edge of the LIC bus terminal. The children run to a neighborhood stall to buy or sneak, I don't know which, something to eat.
Congress Government or BJP Government, neither seems to have been able or willing to deal with the shame of people living on the streets of this part of town.
Crow couples are hopping along the pavement, picking up twigs and strands of straw where they can find them, balancing two or more in their beaks in order to go and make their nests. By early June, when the first rains start lashing the city they will have lain their eggs and will take turns guarding the nest as the tree sways dangerously from side to side.
Apart from picking away at baskets of fresh fish being carried to the train station on the roofs of black and yellow taxis, the crows are very effective rat killers, swooping down on them in the early morning as a lone adventurer scurries along the edge of the street. Within an hour the carcass of the rat has disappeared, no sweeper required. The crows are much more effective than the well cared for and thus hopelessly disincentivized fat cats that live in my Churchgate office building. In the winter months you may still catch a glimpse of them during the day, a fat bottom wedged in the nook of a tree as they sleep for hours on end, but in the hot summer months the five of them only appear at seven in the evening, in anticipation of their neighborhood benefactors who brings them their food.
The elections are over in our neck of the woods and Mumbai as a whole hit a turnout high of 55%, although our ward, Colaba, Nariman Point etc was actually two percentage points lower than the last time. The temptations of Alibaug and Goa were still too much to resist for the SoBo crowd. Why skip a weekend trip and vote for a Government that could influence your life for the better?
Btw, the banner photo was taken from our holiday home outside of San Gimignano at 6.20 am. What light! It lasted all of five minutes.