Friend X and I have just got inside the car at the basement parking lot, after a chance meeting with a common-but-not-so-close-friend.
Friend X : What was she even wearinggg, dude? (eyes wide with disgust, shaking head in disapproval.)
Me: Skirt. Short skirt.
Friend X: REALLY short skirt that was bordering on trashy. (Turns on the ignition, put the car in first gear, chucks her frozen yogurt paper cup outside and starts to drive away)
Me: You. Are. Trashy.
Friend X: Meeeee? I’m wearing like, 6 layers of clothes. I have leg warmers over my jeans and Rupa warmer lower things under, that’s 3 layers on my legs alone, dude!
Me: Because. (Points at the discarded-outside-the-car cup and plastic spoon.)
Friend X: Oh please, that’s just a parking lot.
Me: It’s still trash.
Friend X: Trash that’s not so dangerous. Infact I’m sure paper cups are almost earth friendly trash.
Me: Um. Nope. You’re the Great Indian Litterbug and you know it.
Friend X: It will disintegrate and contribute to the fertility of the soil.
Me: Yeah, in about a hundred years!
Friend X: So in the long term sense, I’m doing a good thing, right?
Me: SOOO not right.
Friend X: (pretending I haven’t spoken at all) Right! Which makes me … um, whatever’s the opposite of trashy. Speaking of, God! How short-short was her skirt, dude?
Me: God X, you are unbelievable! Let’s Talk Trashy, okay?
(Trashy Talk follows)
Neighbor Lady in her garden: Hello, there! What’s happening?
Me: All good, just going for a walk.
NL: Me too. Wait, I’ll come along. (Steps out of her garden, throws an empty cola plastic-bottle with a flourish, aiming for the other side of the street. Bottle lands in front of the next door neighbors, Col & Mrs Khanna. This seems to make NL happy. I wince but instruct myself to not get involved.)
Me: Um, that’s not right. (I say because I can’t stop myself, and then mentally kick myself for getting involved. This is how it starts, right?)
NL: It’s totally okay, it didn’t go inside Khanna’s garden this time. (winks at me conspiratorially, like I am a part of the joke. I am so not the part of the joke!)
Me: It’s on the street right outside our houses, it is not okay at all.
NL: Oh relax, the people will pick it up tomorrow.
Me: What people?
NL: You know, the people who come to clean out street?
Me: People come to clean out street?
NL: Yeah. I mean, I’ve never seen them myself, but the trash is picked up every morning. It’s never where I, er, whoever might have thrown it. (has the decency to look a little guilty so I decide to go easy on her)
Me: There are no such people. No one comes to pick trash you or whosoever throws here. Mrs Khanna’s 13 year old son picks it up.
Me: Yeah. He is in his school’s Anti Litter Club and hates litter. And litterbugs.
NL: What do you mean?
Me: I’m just saying. (I shrug and look in the general direction of NL’s wall where someone once spray painter ‘LITTERBUG!!’ in red. The wall was repainted the same day, but if you look closely enough, you’d see it.)
NL: Following my gaze to the wall, and turning the same shade of red) Oh. Oh my god.
Me: The kid picks up your trash.
NL: That is … well, embarrassing. (Her glance flickers towards her pearl white wall for a split second)
Me: You are a litterbug, you know?
NL: Nooo. I’m just … lazy. Sometimes. (more red in the face)
Me: Nope. You’re what they call The Great Indian Litterbug.
NL: But I don’t always litter!
Me: Oh, what the hell. (Alright I am getting involved) Let’s talk trashy, Okay?
(trashy talk follows)
Origin of the Trashy Talk.
Me: Are the windows locked? (trying to slide down the windows of the car)
Husband, driving the car: Yeah.
Me: Well, then unlock it.
Husband, eyes on the road: Nope.
Me: Nope? What the F$#k?
Husband: Car Rules! (shrugs)
Me: What the hell are car rules?
Husband: If you’re eating or drinking inside the car, or dealing with anything that involves paper, plastic, or things that are no longer required, the windows remain shut till we reach a dustbin. Or home.
Me: What does that even mean? (I knew exactly what it meant, but not admitting is a flaw too. Like littering)
Husband looks over at my (probably red) face: Sigh. Let’s talk trashy, okay?
Me: You know I am not into dirty talk and even if I was, this is hardly the time or the pla –
Husband, cutting me off: It’s not what you think, baby. It is far more important to me than…well, that. Trust me. So you ready for the trashy talk?
Me, pouting: Whatever.
Husband, stopping the car at the road side and putting a hand over my shoulders: baby, you are a litterbug.
Me: I am a litterbug?
Husband: Yeah. You are a litterbug. You throw stuff out of the car, whenever we are on a drive and I understand you feel the need to not sit in the close space with used coffee cups and sauce stained food-wrapping paper and empty cola bottles, but baby, you need to stop. It’s driving me insane!
husband, nodding: Yes. You can’t throw waste on the roads. On the streets. In public places. At the mall. Anywhere that isn’t a dustbin meant for garbage. You just cant. It is wrong on so many levels. One of the first things we are taught as kids is to NOT litter. Our 5 year old selves will be so ashamed of our Trash Crimes, seriously.
Me: Okay….I will not litter, babe. And trust me I would have stopped long back if I knew, I mean, er, I had no idea you felt so strongly about littering.
Husband: Don’t do it for me baby, no! Do it for yourself, for us, for our future kids (we didn’t have a kid back then) for the society, for the planet.
Me: Okaaaayyy you need to calm down and tell em the story.
Husband: What story? (avoids eye contact)
Me: Come on. You know what story.
Husband: there’s no story.
Me: there’s always a story, baby.
Husband: (Take a few long seconds, then sighs) Okay, so there’s this thing that happened, it’s not my why-I-hate–litter story or anything, it’s just something I never forgot.
Husband: I was eleven, and chewing gums non stop was a cool thing. All of us did it, you know? Then one day, I found a sparrow lying flat on the school basketball court. I took it to the biology lab to the lab assistant. You know what? The poor thing has eaten a discarded gum! It looks like bread crumb lying on the ground, you know? Gum thrown of the ground looks like bread to birds, who try to eat it. it fouls their entire system, preventing them from ingesting any real food or water. So they die slowly. They die the most feared death – death by starvation.
Me: God. That’s awful.
Husband: Yeah. Awful. And it’s not only birds we harm by littering, it’s every species on the planet, including us. So – No Littering!
Me: I love you! (hugs him from across the gear. We are still in the car, remember?) And yeah, No Littering from today!
Husband: Yes. Remember the rules:
- Unless it’s a fifty rupee note (or above) that will be good for someone to pick up, no dropping anything on the ground.
- Unless it’s a grenade that will work fine even if its thrown fifteen meters off the target, always aim for “inside” the trashcan and not “around” it, or in the “general direction” of a trashcan. (Yeah, the Husband is an Army officer)
- Unless you intend on carrying all Styrofoam coffee cups behind you until they have time to biodegrade naturally in about a million years, Don’t Use Styrofoam Cups.
- Unless it’s a treasure map for someone to find and go on a quest, don’t hide it under the train berth, bus seat or movie-theater chair. All of those have trashcans. And finally –
- If it’s not acceptable inside your fancy car, it is not acceptable on the roads. Or on the side of the road. Find a trashcan.
Me, mighty impressed and a wee bit embarrassed: You’re. Awesome.
Husband, looking happy and shy: Not really. It’s just being civil. (He’s a fauji, for him to be using the word ‘civil’ in a good sense is really something!)
Me (Putting my paper plate and spoons and tissue papers in the paper bag it came in, deciding to throw it inside the trashcan outside my society): Baby, I will not litter. And I have to confess, I love trashy talk.
Are you a litterbug? Obviously you are, because I Googled a recent study that said 82.69% Indians are some sort of litterbugs and what are the chances that one of the remaining 17.31% is here reading my blog, huh? But worry not, dear Indian litterbug – there is redemption.
First, reform yourself by pledging against littering.
Second, when you spot a litterbug, tap them on the shoulder and say – Let’s Talk Trashy, okay?
This post is written for Happy Hours with Indiblogger and Great Indian Litterbug, and I fully support the anti-litter campaign (mainly because – the husband, but also because I care)