March 19, 2012

The island is still our home

These sights and thoughts from a morning walk in Male.

 Litter of yesterday still remained, not collected and being strewn about in the morning breeze. The narrow pavement made uneven by the constant repair work being carried out unabated to accommodate the wiring and piping of new building constructions makes walking precarious -- especially for the older generation for the possibility of a sprained ankle from a foot laid unsteady or a sudden trip of the foot on a protruding cement block that doesn't quite fit the surface lattice-work. In the tree pits along the wobbly sidewalk are accretions of litter such as empty pet bottles, chocolate wrappers, empty supari or gutka sachets or just crushed up remains of shop receipts and most of all I notice the base of the trees of the avenue red with myriad streams of beetle juice laden spit directed at these lone and accepting sentries of the street. The lattice cover of the street-side drains is layered with dried fallen leaves from the trees overhead that indicated a default on the daily sweeping and collections of road-side litter. Nostalgia overcame me as I drank in the fresh morning air – nostalgia for the days gone by when Male’s then sandy streets were swept to a clean sheet every morning by the house owners who valued the tidiness of the common surroundings. It was almost a religious impulsion from within, not to be dished out to foreigners doing labor duty. The island was still our home.

At the next street-corner, I did see some such collectors of the morning litter, sweeping half the accumulations into the drain along with the sand and the leaves, oblivious or careless to the fact of a filling up drain and the problems of water logging and mosquito breeding these drains will pose during the monsoon time. Unable to bear witnessing this irresponsible and inefficient process happening I was overcome with an inexorable temptation to move over to give them my version of what a good sweep meant. I did so showing how to sweep away from the drain and protecting it from filling up, and fortunately they did not get upset with me but deferred to my pleadings to keep our country clean by doing properly the work assigned to them and benefiting from our tax payers money to give them a sober livelihood even as our own poor sleep long on Saturday mornings letting the dollars drain. The economic development of the past decade or so seems to have put an irrational logic in our minds that manual labor is degrading, and so must be dished our to guest labor from neighboring countries. Our hubris is that despite being aware of the economic hardships we are experiencing now, we still are willing to let the dollars drain out of our country for the obduracy our bloated personal egos dictate, and allow our national interest to whither. Yet we complain that dollars are hard to come-by! Does this not call for a major overhaul of our moral base and to put us on the path of values again? Can we call for a Captain who will put our ship on course by having his/her eyes less on the materialistic glitter of the shores yonder than on the treacherous corals that lie in our path of social values -- responsibility and character?

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