Chris' Original Blogbeque

A fresh, vinegar-based examination of life

Cleanliness pt 2

Posted by Chris on October 26, 2007

PART 1 LINK

In part one, I talked about what I do and what normal Bengalis do as far as hygiene and trying to achieve some level of cleanliness/sanitation. Here are some other kinds of observations/personal struggles.

Every kind of pollution you can think of is present here in the city. Noise, water, air, ground—but I will say positively that it is more localized. Meaning, it’s not going to contribute much to the alleged global climate change. In fact, much of it is very contained to a small area. For example, at IITD, if I walk outside, I can’t hear the noises from the main road, which is about a 4 minute walk. The only pollution that bothers me here is perhaps trash I see that is an eyesore.

But on the main road, noise and air pollution are bad. The vehicle horn is used a lot out of necessity, but it’s also used obnoxiously. Some days I find it funny, other days I just imagine what it would be like if I could use the all-weapons cheat code in Grand Theft Auto. Every kind of vehicle has its own horn (bikes have bells, motorbikes sort of buzz, buses have these long/loud/rhythmic sounds, etc… it’s helpful for knowing the capability of killing you the person barreling down on you possesses), and in a traffic jam it’s like jim carrey in Dumb and Dumber (“you want to hear the most annoying sound in the world?”).

Air pollution: on this road, if I walk or bike for 10 minutes, I begin to feel it. Here, it’s more the dust that is kicked up by the cars and buses. Sometimes at night you can just see the air full of dust particles through car headlights. When riding in the city, with the windows down (a must, I haven’t seen a car with A/C), it’s the exhaust. Furthermore, things in my nose are black or darkened.

Trash: there are piles everywhere. The city is taking 300 loads of garbage each day to turn into fertilizer, but I’m not sure how often trash from outlying areas like mine is removed. There are some positives, though. For one, a much higher proportion of trash here is bio-degradable than in the US. If you buy fruit, it’s often give in a bag made up of folded newspaper; fish is bought fresh (or caught), not wrapped in styrofoam and plastic. Secondly, some eke out a living by going through the trash. Many things are also recycled and reused, such as electronics and car parts. Another way trash is dealt with are the cows that are always picking through it, eating something. I don’t really ask questions about the cows, I fear what might happen.

Back to what I said about pollution being localized. Of course, any pollution can leak down through the soil and affect the water table, but, at least if one pukur (pond) gets really nasty here, it’s relatively self-contained from other water. As you walk along, you can see certain pukurs which are really bad and no longer hospitable to fish and no one bathes there, while others look relatively clean. The rivers are a different story though. The “Holy Ganges” is infamously polluted, and there was a recent incident here that may affect many.

The end of Durga Puja is marked by the immersion of the idols in water. Then, you’re supposed to take them out. Well, some do and some don’t. but even the ones that come out, paint has washed off and metals been introduced into the River Hoogly. Just a day after this happened, the paper reported levels of different things that were way above or below minimum requirements. Fish are dying and they fear people may be poisoned (kids dive in after the immersions to collect parts of the idols for re-selling). This shows some of the complications of finding a solution when religion and cultural rites, as currently practiced, directly contribute to the problem. The mayor insists people use safe paints, not leave the idols in the water, etc… but those are obviously not permanent solutions.

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