In almost six weeks, we have seen no trash trucks, no recycling bins to be emptied, but endless sweeping , everywhere. The trash must go somewhere and that is into piles along the sides of the road. In the mornings, the piles have turned to ashes because the homeless burn the piles for warmth against the chilly desert night. Mumbai allows no burning of the trash piles, consequently the piles are higher there because, of course, they do have sweeping. Feral dogs and cattle scavenge for morsels deep inside the trash.
Houses along our unpaved lane, deep in the heart of Ahmedabad, are surprisingly upper middle class. In the morning, each house has two sweepers and a boy to wipe the steps and tiles with a rather dirty wet cloth. The pile from each house is swept out onto the lane by women using these ancient handmade brooms. As far as I know, there are no social programs in India. No unemployment insurance, medicare or medicaid or Social Security. Here there are assistants for every job, and much of it seems to be “make work” for the poor. I have no idea how much the pay is, but many people are paid or fed to complete a task that could be accomplished by many less workers. I read that the wealthy don’t hire a driver or a cook but they hire “servants” who do every job needed by the family. It seems whole families can be hired by an affluent family . The poverty slams you in the face , Nothing like I have seen, except in Egypt, many years ago. At this moment in time, the lucky ones here from the 1,200,000.000,000 population have,at least , a sweeping job.
The women in the picture were sweeping at the Indian Institute of Management, a very beautiful complex designed by Louis Kahn. I tried to take a picture of the woman on the left sweeping, but she insisted that she stand next to her friend. Many Indians love to have their pictures taken and then want to see themselves in the camera window. So far no one has asked for a “tip” for taking a picture, as was a custom in Egypt.
P. S. I wrote this the first month we were in Ahmedabad. By the end of our stay, we started seeing a few garbage trucks and some wagons manned or “woman-ed” by the trash pickers who are Dalit or untouchable caste. There is a real need for garbage cans and regular pick-up all over India. Chennai, formally Madras, was the cleanest city in our opinion. It has lots of international businesses, which might explain the difference. Notice the short broom with no handle. Using this ancient broom is very hard on the sweeper’s back.
T I I I . . . . .This Is Incredible India ! Namaste. . . . . .