INTRODUCED TO THE UGLY INDIAN
A lot of times, I have had conversations with my friends, about how filthy Indian streets are. Initially I blamed the Government. As years passed, I wondered why I shouldn’t do it myself. Why not just start cleaning around and gradually pull in more interested people to make our roads and streets clean. When I was still planning on this, one of my colleagues told me about The Ugly Indian. I checked their Facebook page and website to know more.
I was blown away. It was what I was planning for, but executed at a level I had never imagined. I wanted to be a part of this. Soon, I contacted them and registered as a volunteer. The organizers would mail details on when and which spot they were planning to clean up. They call this activity, “Spotfix”. I was excited and waited for a mail from them. 2 weeks after registration, I got a mail asking me if I can volunteer for a spotfix at 1st Main road, Banaswadi (Bangalore) and this blog is about my first Spotfix experience.
I was supposed to be there at the spot at 7:30 am on Saturday, June 14. I reached 5 minutes late. People were already working. This is a rough map of the spot.
BBMP (Bruhat Bengaluru Maganagara Palike)/ Bangalore municipal corporation staff helped us with the initial clearing. The Ugly Indian (TUI) organizers had already requested permission from the private property guy to work in that area. They also got permissions from municipality for the staff help. It was well organized. There was a coordinator named Nishanth who was 6’4″, I think and his very presence was energizing and commanding.
Spades, shovels, digging bars and other tools were already brought in by TUI. They also provided us with protective gloves and face mask. Three to four people worked in groups. The first thing to do was to clear the area of polythene bags and dumped garbage. The collected garbage was moved away by BBMP. Next we cleared weeds around trees and placed stones around them. After that, we started painting the walls red and white.
It was my first time painting a wall and I was stumbling. Now I met a guy named Gulfazar. He was from Trichy and was a good company. This was his eighth spotfix and he was very proud of it. He immediately deduced that I was new there. He recounted how messed up his first paint job was. Reportedly, they let him continue painting because he was tall enough to reach the top of the wall. We had a good laugh and continued painting. Soon enough I got a hang of it.
USELESS SLABS TO RESTING BENCHES
After all this, we started using the cleared stones and slabs to make benches. A place where people felt disgusted to walk had turned into one where people can sit and enjoy an evening. We painted the benches red. Then, Nishanth suggested we clean a little more of the surrounding. So, we started clearing away a little more of the Church ground wall. Suddenly, we heard people shouting!
THE BAD AND GOOD OLD MEN
We ran back to see what the problem was. An old man had rode to the cleared spot on his scooty, dropped his garbage bag and rode away fast. Volunteers nearby started shouting asking him to stop. A few of them ran behind him. We looked at Nishanth. He just smiled and said “He did his job. Let’s continue doing ours”. We had a hearty laugh and continued painting again. A few minutes later, we came to know they stopped the old man and returned his garbage bag to him.
As we continued, another old man kept observing us. He noticed that we were working for almost 3 hours now. He went to his home that was nearby and brought coffee and water for all of us. Hopes on humanity regained. That was an encouraging gesture. Just not stopping there, he joined us in clearing the spot a little while later.
I met with a lot of interesting people. Gulfazar and another muslim guy did not take coffee or water. They were on fast for Ramadan. We asked them to have something as they had been working hard continuously for 3 hours. But, they refused with a smile and continued with what they were doing. There were college students, school girls, IT guys, married men and old men from different backgrounds, all working for one good cause. I was enjoying this moment. It brought more hope and made me feel proud.
OTHER INTERESTING THINGS
People of that locality kept watching us, some of them feeling happy and some of them passing comments that it’s gonna get dirty again anyway. A few people on their morning walk enquired Nishanth about what was happening. They would riddle him with a lot of questions and just walk away doing nothing. A few of them stopped by to appreciate. A few of them clapped for us as they walked by. And then, there came a cow. She saw the place totally changed and was mooing at us for five to ten minutes, as if asking us, “Where do I piss now, you idiots?”. Then, she just pissed where she stood and walked away. I take it that was her way of complaining. We felt a little sorry for the poor thing. A few people from the locality formed a group to scout around the spot and create awareness among people to drop their garbage in an allocated area than dumping it all around. This was to stop the spot from getting messed up again. We donated money for the next spotfix for the paints and other tools.
Happy and tired I went back home with paint splatters and dirt all over me. I didn’t tell mom where I left for in the morning. She was shocked to see me the way I was all worn out. I grinned. She said, “I know you did something good. Tell me what you did”. I replied, “I will upload pics in facebook. You will understand”. She smiled.
HERE IT STARTS
I experienced the saying “Be the change you want to see”. It definitely will keep me boosted to do more. I am planning to attend more spotfixes and someday tell another newbie that it’s my n-th spotfix and be proud about it.
TUI has organizers in most cities. This movement has been there since 2009. It has become popular in the last one year and it keeps gaining more volunteers. You can contact them on Facebook and they will let you know how to become a registered volunteer.
To be a part of this, you need two seemingly free, but precious things: Time and the right Attitude. Now, you can’t crib about streets being filthy, can’t back away saying you don’t have money to donate, can’t complain this country is full of irresponsible politicians and citizens. Someone has already taken a step. It’s time all of us do our part and leave behind a legacy that we will all be proud of. So, stop complaining and start doing.
A. Where we had all the tools and paints stacked
B. I met Gulfazar here and my first attempt at painting a wall
C. The extra surrounding that we cleared
D. The cow complained here
E. Old man dropped garbage bag here. Yellow line – Old man’s scooty ride path.
X. Where he was stopped and returned his garbage bag.
F. The Good Old man got us coffee and water.