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The article is based on a brief observational study done by my team and me on the Pirana landfill site in Ahmedabad. The article is meant as a satirical take on the social and environmental repercussions of landfill sites, and our attempts to not acknowledge the same. It is intended not to preach, but provoke individuals to take cognizance of the cost of development – the proliferation of many such heaps in and around every city.

Through our neglect of the ecosystem of waste generation and management, we also relegate to obscurity the community that resides inand around the area. Thereby, we push the legitimate demands by these individuals, for basic necessities, to the back of our democratic debates. In this context, I wish to reiterate that the article is not meant to malign any particular state/city but shine a light on the appalling disregard for this issue in every city, and every state. Furthermore, what might appear as a callous depiction of the less privileged is merely used as a literary tool, and in no way condones the inhuman treatment of these individuals.

Making a Critique Sandwich

Step I: Take a freshly baked issue, and treat it with a generous smear of tasteful sycophancy.

The Gujarat model remains plain for all to see. Its vast expanses of highways, well-planned complexes, beautiful riverfronts beseech praise from even the most resolute critics. For whatever has been said and that which remains to be etched in permanence, by transcribing the thought to an illustrious article, the safety, and cleanliness exuded by the city are worth emulating. It was this beauty that we set out to absorb, in a drive through the paradise city. Little did we know that our drive through serenity would soon turn out to be a journey through the pages of Dante’s Divine Comedy.

A short and comfortable drive away from the heart of our city (IIM A) we were faced with an unsightly site – quite unbecoming of our great city. So, we decided to investigate.

Step II: The choicest of filling – nutritious but digestible and aesthetically decorated.

A wasted Sunday, if ever there was one. The Ahmedabad sun (widely accepted as being stronger than that of any other state) unrelentingly beat down upon us. We stepped out of our air-conditioned cabs on a road that wasn’t – a clear warning that no civilised being was to cross this. Our folly, for we did.

Out here in the open, even a cool breeze of air brought us no respite, for accompanying it was the assault by ghastly smell, forcing us to take notice of the mound of garbage, which we had till now expertly ignored. So fierce was the odour, that the tissues shoved up our nostrils did little to ameliorate our predicament. Yet, we soldiered on.

Living in the backyard of this heap, separated by a 5-foot wall barely a stone throw (by a particularly anorexic kid) away, lived entire communities of people demanding humanity and civility. Through narrow streets and narrower houses, we saw scores of people who infected every nook and cranny. The benevolence of the state forgotten among these ungrateful lot, for greed knows no bounds. Scarcely had the last electricity pole been erected, that they raised a cry for potable water.

Children filled the streets – playing in the puddles of filth and inconsiderately splashing infected murky water on our pristine clothes. Showing little regard for the cost of the damage to us – their entire house’s worth couldn’t probably afford a single item adorned by us!

Moved by the smoke and pollution, with tears in our eyes, we persevered on to interview the residents – determined to find the root cause of this pestilence. Reaffirming our faith in their narcissism, the locals hammered on about their problems for nothing less than 10 minutes, only pausing to indicate that we should take a seat on a makeshift chair. We didn’t fall for the bait, that would have indicated our comfort, edging them to proceed in greater depth. Nonetheless, in our brief interaction, they managed to communicate a few ‘grievances’ –  the lack of schools (only one private primary school and no government school) ; the absence of government hospitals/clinics; and the increasing deaths due to increased respiratory ailments, kidney failures, skin diseases, and premature births. We did suffer quite stoically through it all.

Step IV: A warm fresh top to contain all the goodness within.

As the rain started to pour, we made a quick escape. Leaving behind the sewage (brown as filth), as it flowed into the once venerated Sabarmati river. Our Sabarmati with the waters of Narmada is so much better than our ancestors could have ever imagined! Soon we had made our way back into civilisation – the bustling streets, the flourishing markets, and the stately houses – things were right once more.

Hopefully with time, as the stench of the dump fades away so will the memory of that distant place, located but 3 miles away. Those forgotten souls and nameless beings destined to suffer for our sins –  such a noble cause indeed – will fade from memory, and we can continue with our lives of opulence and wastage, as we were meant to.

Step V: Slice it through the heart, and divide it along imaginary lines, so that it can be devoured one bite at a time.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are personal.

Anuvrat Chaturvedi is a student of IIM, Ahmedabad


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