Travel notes from a garbage village

Few weeks ago, I visited Devachi Uruli, a small village in the outskirts of Pune. The moment you enter Devachi Uruli, the stinker of garbage greets you to its barren lands. There is nothing beautiful in the village except the exotic advertisements along the roads, featuring Asian models seducing the city-dwellers to live the life of their dreams (nightmares?) inside houses, lifted from the pages of Architectural digest, at the garbage village.
 Who knows? Within few years, when tall residential complexes get built, the garbage village might shift few kilometers away to its next-door victim, while Devachi Urlui might stand well dressed up like a prostitute in her midlife crisis, bedecked with excessive make-up to hide her blemishes and scars, in a desperate attempt to please the newly arrived city customers. 

As I looked outside my van on the streets of Devachi Uruli, none of those walking in the road felt the need to cover their nose. I wondered if their sense of smell was anything human, blissfully unaware of their stressed out olfactory nerves surrendered to the stench. As I stared outside at the roads, covering my nose with a handkerchief, I had a strange feeling as if I was brought to make me feel how terrible my fart smells. How could the putrid smell of my flatulence simply disappear in thin air? Especially, when city dwellers live flatulently inside clean, concrete jungles, thanks to the rampant consumerosis virus inflicted by ambitious marketers.

I walked inside the main gate of the dumping yard. The first patch of ground I entered seemed like a vacant parking lot fully made of concrete. The foul odor gave away the truth the concrete was trying to hide beneath its rigid, cement structure. Mountains of garbage piled up over the years. I also found newly planted green saplings near the concrete land, grown with a supposed benign environmental concern to salve the conscience and offer Mother Nature some solace over her lost virginity. Doesn’t she deserve some solace after a colossal gang rape involving millions?? 

As I walked ahead, I was standing amidst tall mountains of garbage strewn with all the excesses of human wants, painted in vivid colours by the plastic packaging wrap-covers of every Fast Moving Consumer Goods(FMCG) product that has been introduced in India. It seemed like a trailer of what the Wall-E movie showed the Earth would be in the not so distant future. As I saw a pale cover of a paan sachet stuck beneath my shoes, I realized I was standing on a garbage mound built over the years of human indulgence. Looking at the garbage strewn thick with packaging covers, I was overwhelmed with guilt as I realized that as a marketing student, I belong to the same tribe which was responsible in creating this mess. All that I studied about the science of packaging, including its minute details on choosing the best color, shape that would attract the customers towards the product seemed like machinations of corporations to manipulate the minds of the customer to buy more and more of stuff which they never wanted to. 

My evangelical faith over businesses’ noble intentions to empower bottom of the pyramid suddenly turned blasphemous, as I looked at various small sachets lying all around, aimed at increasing the consumption of FMCG products amongst the rural and other aspiring consumer segments. When a three rupee biscuit packet, whose contents gets consumed in two minutes, stays on for several years to damage the environment and eventually our lives, all the marketing jazz around empowering the rural consumers sound bull shit which stinks far worse than garbage.

Although I am making the business corporation look like a villain, trying to ruin the lives of gullible consumers, the cruel irony is that the villain who makes marketing plan to increase consumption in the morning, goes home in the evening to become the consumer against whom he schemed with his marketing arsenal. 

Recently, I read an interesting article which gave me some amazing insights about plastic. Do you know? Plastic was originally praised for its potential to reduce environmental foot print. Puzzled??  Earliest plastics were invented as substitutes for dwindling supply of natural materials like ivory or tortoise shell. When John Wesley Hyatt patented celluloid, his company pledged that the new man made material would save tortoise and elephant. I also learnt in the article that plastics also make possible green technology like solar panels and lighter cars. 

By now, I am sure you would have understood that plastic is here not the problem. So if the corporation and plastics are not the villains we need to be enraged about, who committed the crime?

Often we comfort ourselves by pointing fingers at a villain as the sole cause for the problem to exist and carry on with our daily lives, smug with the belief that unless the other changes, nothing would really happen.  The same attitude goes along in the dangerous idea that our problems would go away if we kept them away from our homes and cities. 

Is it so hard for the mind to know the truth that there exists no place in earth which is away. If at all we care about our Earth, it’s not others but us who has to change to make a difference.