Like any loyal reader, even in the times of Amazon and Flipkart and convenience of getting a book delivered at your doorstep, I took a metro accompanied by a friend and reached Pragati Maidan, to attend the first day of the New Delhi World Book Fair (6-14.January.2018). I could only cover one entire hall, by the end of which I was hungry, my feet were hurting, and my back was aching, and I had 3 bags of books. The Penguin Random House stall received more footfall than any other major publishing houses. I ended up with 6 new books, not much if you don’t consider another 15 books lying unread at my place. Check the list out here.
All was well, till I exited the halls, and bought a cup of coffee from a stall and noticed the littering, and as I began ranting to my friend how irresponsible we are as citizens and how even if we have a dustbin nearby, literally five steps away, we would still throw it on the ground. I have always held the view, that people who read, are just the better lot of people. More humble, more empathetic, more aware. But, guess not. We resumed our long walk to the metro station, and at every step you could see plates, wrappers, tetra packs, just lying around. What would it take for a country of a billion to understand, that littering is not only an eyesore, but harmful to the environment, to the animals who munch up the polybag that you so effortlessly threw on the ground, to the person who would be responsible to clean all that shit up, and to frankly, you. It completely baffles me. All you have to do is to finish eating whatever the fuck you are eating and throw the wrapper in the dustbin. How difficult can that be? We would rather step on the trash than dispose it off. What does it say about us?
Another view greeted us, as we exited the gate. Hawkers, street carts, sellers with everything you could possibly imagine- cheela, shakarkandi, chana chaat, footwear and pirated books (the irony of it is not missed on me). I stopped to eat a plate of sweet potatoes, served on a leaf bowl, and soon threw it in the dustbin- a reused basket underneath the thela. I could see many other disposed leaf bowls there. Maybe all isn’t lost. The other thing that stood out to me was how there was a live, bubbling economy around me. How quickly these small entrepreneurs had capitalized on the opportunity. There were even some women selling bags. I took all of it in and then walked past them. Still noticing the trash.
The day had ended. The trash was still there. I went back home. Giddy with the happiness of buying new books, disappointed in Indians, as citizens and warmed by the zeal of the local entrepreneurs.
So if you are planning to check the Book Fair out, please do, and remember:
- You are going to buy more books you can read.
- Please throw the trash in the dustbin.
- Grab a chaat outside.
- Enjoy the bitter cold, once you leave the halls.