Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Indian Environmentalism

I was standing in the open doorway of a moving train. I was going to be on the thing for about 40 hours so I figured the more chances to stretch my legs the better. Besides, the doorway offered a much better view than the heavily tinted and scratched window of the four-bunk compartment I was in.

I was sharing the compartment with part of a family of four, the father and son having the bunks opposite mine and the mother and daughter having a pair one car down. The son was a telemarketer about my age who was employed by Dell as part of their outsourcing program. He usually worked in the middle of the night, when the US is awake. He was a fun guy to talk to and a helpful and informative companion.

In the afternoon, while chatting we we were standing next to the wide open door of the train, enjoying the view while he smoked a cigarette (which wasn't permitted in the car itself).

Out of curiosity I asked him something I had been wondering about for a while: whether India had any sort of recycling program.

“Of course!” he replied. “We recycle the poly bags [plastic grocery bags]. There is groups that come to your home and collect your bags so that they will not be a danger to animals in the wild.”

He speech was uncharacteristically dry, almost scripted. He continued, “We know this is very important, it is important to preserve and protect our environment because India is famous for it's beautiful forests and it is very important that we protect them. It is for that that we are having these groups.”

“So are these private organizations or government groups?” I asked.

“They are with the government.” He replied.

At that moment, his mother, who had been busy trying to stuff me full of free food for most of the ride, stepped out of the car next to us. She walked behind her son, tossed a plastic bag full of garbage out the open doorway, and went back into the car without a word.

“But,” her son continued, smiling, “I do not trust the Indian government.”

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