It was noon time and the sun was right on us. Thus, we waited at a local stall to buy some caps for the kids- I quickly bagged the best deal (not that I am good at it though, like most women) we then turned towards the ticket counter to buy the entry tickets to the Daulatabad fort. This year we friends zeroed on ‘Aurangabad’ as our trip destination after a lot of discussion as to why to drop ‘Goa’ on the new year’s eve. The best reason we had is that we had small kids along with us and didn’t want us to be embarrassed with some tricky questions on the Goan beaches…the men finally agreed to drop Goa.
Meeting the Real Heroes.
So, as the pappas were standing in the queue at the fort entrance I saw a man in his sixties probably, a shopkeeper bending down and collecting something from the area surrounding his stall. Firstly, I thought he was searching for something lost then at a closer look I realised that he was picking up bits of toffee wrappers and other plastic waste. My eyes were glued to him until I saw that he then threw all of that waste in a dustbin that he kept for public use right next to his shop. Without second thoughts I moved on to join in my gang who had already entered the fort and were waiting for me.
Daulatabad fort is a majestic fort with beautiful carvings, exceptionally planned in defenses’ and well executed. But there was something even more exceptional I witnessed on the steps (approximately 750 spread over 200 meters high hill) which saw the rise and fall of many leaders. In each war someone lost to someone superior than him.
Even today there was one war I could see with my open eyes. Where an Indian was another Indian’s enemy! Where one Indian was dumping waste the other was cleaning it. Where one talks cleanliness and same person does not follow it. On one side could see many tourists, mostly Indians from other parts of the state littering and degrading our rich heritage and on the other hand there was a group of youngsters collecting those thrown bottles in bags and carrying it down. These youngsters were volunteers of the ‘Swacchata hi seva campaign’ organized by the Indian Tourism board Aurangabad. This movement kicked off last year here and its motivating to see young Indians with brooms rather than stones.
‘Seva’ can be offered in very simple ways. Just like the mid aged woman from the Ganpati temple whom we met on the way up. She carries 3 to 4 cans of potable water daily to quench the thirst of the hikers. All her past generations have been doing this seva from years. I was deeply touched by her actions.
I felt a little ashamed that me being young was tired and gasping for air with dried throat. And there was this lady who climbs this 200 meter high hill with water daily just to be distributed to the visitors. All I could do is touch her feet as there was no better way to express gratitude towards her and her family. Poor people are the richest.
The Indian Tourism department started the ‘Atithi Devo Bhavah’ campaign, spreading the awareness through various media channels. In spite of the beautifully conceptualized global advertising campaign about Incredible India, India still has a meagre 0.64% of the total tourist arrivals worldwide. This figure makes it evident that the culturally rich central theme “Atithi Devo Bhavah” coupled with our historical and natural resources is unable to make the most of the opportunity created by the world tourism industry.
We need to develop the facilities by revamping public utilities and keeping them clean, focusing on safe food & water, training the cleaning staff and preserving the environment. Training the staff repeatedly on standards of cleaning & hygiene and application of chemicals can be very instrumental in motivating and providing them dignity.
To make the ‘Clean India’ drive sustainable, we would also require interventions by experts from cleaning and hygiene industry at various levels to keep places frequented by tourists clean and tidy. Experts can be commissioned to conduct effective and regular interventions in terms of training and audits or assessments of public places.
Thousands of volunteers are working religiously all over India to make our country a clean nation, be it the ‘Versova beach clean up’ or the ‘Sahyadari clean up’ -they are fighting the same enemy. The lazy citizens who are asleep, ignorant and most of all shameless. The shopkeeper I saw below the fort, should have been concerned of his business right? But, there was something he was dedicated to apart from running his small shop which was probably his sole bread earning source.
He was dedicated to a much more bigger vision and that is – ‘Swach Bharat’. Our real heroes. Salute to them.
Aarti Mardhekar Kagwade
HR development consultant, a curious mother of two who loves trekking and playing badminton. Can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org