Sunday, July 13, 2008
Are Indians more Pavlovian than most?
This is a story about a garbage bin that stands at the corner of our street. Here is a picture of it. But it used not to be like this. At one time it was a fine upright garbage bin on four wheels into which people deposited their trash and the company which collects garbage Neel Metal Fanalca (never mind the weird name) would empty daily. Over time it lost its legs, toppled over till finally the company itself came and delivered the coup de grace by upending it. This is supposed to signify (I am basing this on earlier and similar events) that they would no longer collect garbage from this bin and indeed they have stopped coming to this one (hopefully till it's replaced by another). However, and here comes the rub! What do we see here? Like flowers and coconuts deposited at road side shrines, people continue to present their offerings to the garbage god. That too, when it's clear that the truck has not been clearing this bin. The mound continues to increase on a daily basis. Now, why would they do this? Particularly when there are two more 'working' garbage bins within three minutes walking distance along two perpendicular streets? Are we to conclude that in a classic Pavlovian response, we continue to salivate (sorry, I mean deposit our litter) where we (almost) always have, even though it's no longer cleared? Perhaps there is a simpler reason -- we just don't care.... However, this story has a happy ending!! About a week ago I sent an email to Chennai Corporation complaining about this non-clearance of garbage. Today two gentlemen from the Corporation landed up at my door asking me to show them where the problem was. Within half an hour they had summoned the workers from Neel Metal Fanalca to clear the garbage and set upright the bin until the new one was delivered. What does it prove --- that the citizenry is far more irresponsible than some of the public utility organisations.