Complaints

Two topics I want to address are litter and dogs:
The Indian instinct is to litter, to immediately drop, toss, jettison, spit, or relieve themselves where they stand, sit, or see an opening.  Get rid of the useless and the unclean.  The view from a train passing by people’s backyards is illustrative: where there is a wall to pitch stuff over, there is inevitably a built-up scree of multicoloured packaging.  The catering on the railway system is itself a major offender: the cleaner who sweeps the aisle pushes all the empty plastic water bottles and other rubbish into the vestibule between carriages and straight out the door of the moving train.  I’ve witnessed the steward of our carriage, a smart and in some ways conscientious worker, casually empty a food tray of its bits of foil and paper, over the side.
By the end of the day, the way is strewn confetti-like with empty packets.  Plastic bags drift among the waterlilies on ponds like jellyfish.  There is nothing to prevent a midden of bottlecaps to build up below the terrace of a restaurant whose raison d’etre is a scenic view, as I recall from an earlier visit to Udaipur – no inhibition, no mental connection.  You would think in a country with as long a history and rich associations of sacred lore with the landscape, there would be a sense of responsibility.  There are whole classes of people, sweepers and garbage-pickers, whose job it is to sweep up and carry stuff away, from city streets and designated areas – the sobering implication is that the carpet of litter you’re looking at is just today’s contribution.
It was all very well when the debris was organic, biodegradable – food service packaging of stitched-together leaves, or even paper.  In the bad old days, railway meals came uncovered on reuseable stainless-steel trays.  But now that plastic carrier bags are reflexively given out with every purchase, and modern products rely on elaborate packaging to validate their status and appeal, what could formerly be counted upon to decay away, now drifts and washes up everywhere accumulating.
Medical advice is that rabies is endemic among dogs in India, and from my Canadian experience I dread encounters with unsocialized, irritated, aggressive dogs, but there haven’t been any.  There are more street dogs than one thinks a poor country would support, but they are probably a tacit part of the predilection to littering and the recycling of garbage, picking over food scraps deliberately left at the roadside and market refuse, like the cattle that are noticeably more active foraging at the end of the market day.
It’s not an easy life, but few dogs look underfed, however worn and scruffy in a climate never cold enough to knock back fleas and other parasites.  Many dogs have a lame foot, the price of learning to negotiate traffic.  But they all nonchalantly curl up in any sunny spot, including the curb lane of city streets, and traffic goes around them.  Among all kinds of vehicles, barrows, pedestrians, and itinerant livestock, moving or paused, like small children they are looked-out-for.  I haven’t seen anyone petting or showing affection, nor abuse.  Very few show any sign of an individual relationship at the end of a leash.  Somewhat more of them sport a cardigan or blanket in this winter season.  They don’t solicit friendly attention, expect to be petted.  I have hardly ever seen a tail wag.  It seems a pathetic, withdrawn, parallel world.  Among themselves, they have a careful, local, structured society – trespass is dealt with vocally, sometimes stridently.  In the night there can be terrible rows and grievous yelping, but from anything I’ve actually seen, it seems mainly theatrical.  In the end I’ve grown not to fear them but to pity their sad, separate existence underfoot, the most companionable domestic animal left to its own devices.

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~ by Peter Harris on 25/02/2012.

One Response to “Complaints”

  1. Reblogged this on yerxen.

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