Any typical Indian child would have heard their parents say this, “Don’t waste food. There are thousands of children who have nothing to eat.” And unquestioningly, this statement has made us finish every bit of the food on our plates.

On the other hand, living in Mumbai, nobody has escaped the stench of rotting vegetables at a community garbage bin. We usually move away from these bins as soon as possible to escape the smell. But have we ever taken a moment and noticed the hungry cow, the famished dog, the cat that has newly littered, the crow, the goat and the mouse…many of whose lives depend on what we throw away…

Sometimes, I imagine, what if I were in the place of those creatures, dependent on food that is thrown away? What if I were so hungry, like some of the street dogs, with my ribs showing….would I not want one of the many humans to help me? It is so easy for us to turn our faces away from them, but what if you were them? We think of the thousands of people who have nothing to eat. What about the millions of animals?

So, when I walked past this garbage bin this hot afternoon, I noticed goats tied to a pole near a wall that was just behind two large garbage cans. None of them could reach inside or see the contents of the large garbage cans, but they could smell it. And they were straining against the ropes (a few were free but still could not reach) towards the greens that were in there.

I could see the discarded stems of coriander (kotmir), some spinach (palak), and old chillies thrown in the garbage can partially spoiled….but would I dare do something about it? But the most important question that bothered me was: What if I was the hungry,  tied goat and wanted somebody to help me?

I couldn’t release the goats towards the food, but what if I brought the food to them? What if (gasp) anybody saw me do that????

Well, I’m not a Madcap for nothing! I went closer to the bin, and that’s when I noticed the red sack.

Some vegetable-seller had discarded the outer dark green leaves of a whole lot of cabbages. Now that is a very nutritious part of the cabbage, but apparently, humans don’t eat them (like we are wont to do!). The vegetable seller had stuffed them all up into this red, plastic sack and tied it up real tight. How was anyone to get to it? I tried to break its cords with my fingers, but it didn’t work. I needed something sharp. That’s when my knife, my credit-card sized folding knife that so many of my friends made fun of (I carried it for my safety), came to the rescue.

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The Pocket-Knife

Standing near the bin, I opened the knife and started cutting away the strands of the red sack that were straining against the edges. Two swift cuts and nearly a quarter of the contents of the sack fell to the ground. The untied goats quickly rushed towards the greens (I was a bit afraid of being butted in the process, but they considered me safe).

I was wondering if I was making more of a mess by removing stuff from a garbage bin and putting it on the floor, but then, I was also reducing the amount of garbage that would otherwise add to the rot and spread of disease! Nonetheless, considering both the issues, I removed just enough to feed the 6-7 goats that were there (about half the sack). A street-dweller was watching me. Surely, she didn’t expect me, a person who didn’t appear poor, to touch the contents of the garbage bin. As she realised what I had done, she smiled at me. I smiled back, watched the goats eating contentedly, and walked away.

Just two little cuts from my knife, and a bit of shamelessness…and I had touched the lives of so many little innocent creatures.

Who would’ve thought!

But that’s what it takes to make a difference in society….to speak out, to act, to tell. Instead of hiding, afraid of ‘log kya kahenge’ (what would people say?), act! Be shameless enough to go out and protest. Be shameless enough to care when nobody else does. Be shameless and change and motivate others to change…despite the names they call you because they can’t be like you!

That reminds me of the words from our Marathi textbook in standard 10 in a chapter ‘Fool-vedya mai’ (The lady who loved flowers): Vede vha, vha thode vede. Nehmi shahaane rahnyat kai shahannapann aahe? (Be crazy, be a little crazy. What is the point of always pretending to be smart?).

– Rachael Alphonso
Green Madcaps

[About the author: Rachael has stopped being affected by the ‘log kya kahenge’ (what will people think?) phenomenon. She encourages others to be just as bold in helping other people or animals in public areas, instead of wallowing in useless embarrassment and shyness which doesn’t really get anything done].

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