Cleaning up after yourself

Many years back, my wife and I attended SRK’s show, Temptations at the Allstate Arena in Chicago. It was one crazy show, with people screaming their lungs out, girls sobbing, crying, shouting “I love you, Sharukh!” over and over again even though there was hardly any chance of being heard above the deafening sound system. But we forgot much of all that once the show ended. Instead, we went into a state of shock.

The arena or auditorium looked as if it had been struck by some hurricane. It had been transformed into some kind of minor garbage dump, with all kinds of plastic cups, popcorn bags, paper plates, and other trash strewn all over the place, as if a great wind had emptied a giant garbage truck inside the arena. And food and drinks dropped on the floor, popcorn and pizza portions smashed under people’s feet. People were wiping their shoes on stair corners to get rid of the goo. It was just a nauseating, smelly mess. Nobody bothered to pick up their trash as they filed out in a rush, anxious to get their cars out before that too became a snarling mess.

I don’t know exactly how many people were in there, probably 20,000 though it seemed much more than that at the time. I think my wife and I were the only ones to take our trash out to put into a bin. A fat, brash guy gave us a sardonic sneer and said “Yaar, unko uthane do kachra! Paisa diya hai na ticket ka!”. I was too dumbfounded and stared at him expressionlessly. The young American usher at the door eyed our trash, shrugged and grinned apologetically as though he was sorry at our plight. I don’t easily give into feeling vicarious shame or pride on behalf of others, especially not at the national level, but I can tell you, that day I felt ashamed.

And it wasn’t just that show and not just that evening.

We lived in a small city in Illinois about 100 odd miles south of Chicago at the time. There was a very significant Indian population living there. Like all Indian communities in the US, we celebrated our festivals with gusto, Diwali and Navratri being standout favourites. There were other occasions too – music shows with local musicians, Independence and Republic Day shows etc.

After a few years, halls and auditoriums stopped letting out their places to Indians because we left behind such a mess for the owners to clean up. Remember, manual labour is very expensive in the US and post-show cleaning up became a major expense for the owners. I am not sure why our children are so unruly, running around noisily inside and outside the halls, damaging stuff and even getting into an atrium fountain pond once! At one other show, a couple of guys got into fisticuffs with the auditorium staff over the behaviour of the kids and the police had to be called in. Later, Indian function organizers had to pay surety and promise in writing to clean up after the program before being able to rent a place. Committees were set up to ensure that that happened. I have heard similar stories from friends in other US cities. There is always a sense of benign, tolerant pride during such narrations as though we are a truly unique and wonderful people. Unique, I agree.

And then, there are the Japanese in Qatar…..Imagine cleaning up not only after your own match but after other matches too.

Ab kahan jaake sar patken apna!🤦‍♂️🤦‍♂️🤦‍♂️

Let this not remain a one-way conversation! Your opinions are welcome, especially if you don't agree!!