Thursday, December 17, 2015

Something is rotten in the state of Denmark. Er, Tamil Nadu

It has been a few days since the catastrophic rains and floods.  I have been walking around, yes, but not any long radius from home.  I am intentionally a lot more restricted in my movements this time--in some parts, I see and smell sewage-smelling stagnant water, which is not what I want to encounter.

Life, otherwise, seems to be no different from what it was during the previous trips to the old country.  The streets that had been washed clean by the flood waters are now back with rotting garbage piling up.  The floods apparently did nothing to remind the vast majority about the delicate ecosystem in which more than eight million live.  As if they woke up from a bad dream, people are back to their bad old habits.
  • The young and the old alike casually toss away the trash, especially after eating fast foods at cafes and mobile stands.
  • The dogs have a field day digging through the scrap and, in the process, stuff gets dispersed all over the streets.
  • The rag pickers toss things out of the bins in their search for anything salvageable and recyclable, which is how they make their living.
The net result: there seems to be a permanent putrefied stink in the air, in addition to the sewage smell at some places--like at the gas distribution agency to which I walked with my father.  It has been quite a few days since my parents had booked for their replacement cooking gas cylinder. The phone calls did not go through.  So, finally we walked over.  At one place, we carefully stepped past the horribly stinking black pool of water all over the road.

The gas agency office had the smell of a structure that had been inundated--the smell was so strong that I rushed out preferring the smell of sewage.  My father joked that these are the instances that he thanks his sinus problems, because of which he is unaware of stinks.

From a public policy perspective, the rotting garbage is a public health menace.  One can easily imagine that the public health implications are not that far away from the London of the old, where a single water pump turned out to be the source of a deadly cholera. 

I am once again ticked off thinking about American politicians, especially the rabidly nativist Republicans, who frequently talk about the US having to compete against India.  I wonder if any of them see and experience this kind of a ground-level reality.  Comfortably ensconced in their own bubbles, America's rich and the middle-class alike hysterically yell about the competition from India, when the reality in India stinks, chokes, and more.

As for the dogs, I wish the locals would elect dogcatchers instead of politicians who are only out to swindle.

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