Before boarding a suburban train, I picked up a cup of tea at the station the other day. I sipped it while walking down the platform, but when I finished it, I could not find a garbage bin in which to dispose off the paper cup. The train was late, so I walked up and down the platform looking for a garbage bin, but to no avail.
My movements did attract attention, and a railway employee who happened to be lolling around asked me what I was trying to do.
"Looking for a place to throw this paper cup", I told him.
"Arey, itna tension kyon leta hai (why are you getting so hecked up about it)", he asked. "phenk do na kahin bhi (just chuck it anywhere)". He indicated the rail tracks with a shrug of his shoulder - that was where he wanted me to deposit the paper cup.
"Isn't there a bin anywhere?", I asked.
"Chori ho jata hai (they get stolen)", he informed me, in way of an answer.
I could have chucked the paper cup on the tracks. After all, when so many people do, does one paper cup more or less really make any difference? But I couldn't bring myself to. When I tell my kids not to litter, I can't really be littering myself, can I?
I had the cup in my hand when I boarded the train. Before we were our of the station, my cup indicated that she wanted to sit on the window sill and enjoy the view. She sat very quietly during the entire journey. By the time we got to the station where I wanted to alight, the train had got pretty crowded, and both of us were crushed as we made our way to the door.
No garbage bins at that station either, nor anywhere on the half a mile walk to my office. The cup and me made it to the office at the same time, and she watched me with barely concealed amusement as I signed the attendence sheet and made up an official excuse for being late.
We had been through so much together, that I couldn't bring myself to chuck her into my bin. She sat on my desk all evening, and when it was time to go home, I very reluctantly laid her to sleep in my dustbin. It was like letting a friend go!
Think about it. If there were garbage bins in India, people would never get to make the acquaintance of paper cups!