PEOPLE CALL me Dumpster, but my name is Laden Bin. And I am not a terrorist.
I am as harmless as the maggots I sustain in my system. Yet I am accused of waging a microbial jihad, of attacking passersby with stench guns and of sabotaging the surroundings in a city that got its name from fermented, smelly areca nut.
My cousin Trash Course nestled in the tutorial yonder had warned me that I would never get my due for accommodating throwaways. I thought he – I don’t care if you assert a waste container is female – was talking rubbish until I found out I was being taken for granted.
When I was being conceived in a metal factory, I overheard my makers say I was destined for literary greatness. My excitement knew no bounds when they made me stand near a bus stop soon after my birth; I thought I would be riding to a school or a library. But my dreams were shattered when I had my first polythene-packed morsel thrown in from a swanky car. The polythene burst on impact splashing some vegetable and animal remains in my abdomen. I realized then that I had heard my creators wrong; they had meant ‘litter’ary, literally.
Morning shows the day, I was told. But I didn’t want the morning of my public life to start with a repulsive breakfast, and the thought of having been grounded for good to gulp garbage was even more revolting. The more I thought the hungrier I became, and as the day turned into night I began wondering why nobody offered me lunch and dinner.
A missile woke me up the next morning; it was another plastic carry-bag containing some gooey substance, lobbed from another car. But why didn’t it satiate my hunger? I looked down to see the contents of the plastic bag splashed on my exterior. Then I looked around to see my ‘food’ scattered all around. I didn’t understand the logic behind wasting waste.
“This is human strategy,” some scavengers had told me once, grumbling that members of my untouchable community had taken over their job. “They make you starve so that you are compelled to eat garbage. And once you start taking crap, there’s no getting out of it,” said a vulture. “Make your presence felt,” said a crow, adding: “Stinkers can be thinkers too. Plan your revenge.”
I can’t refuse the bipeds’ refuse, I told myself. But I can give it back in some other form. So I began burping to burn the olfactory senses. I thought the smelly salvo would make the garbage throwers aim correctly. They continued to be off the mark, derisively so. Those who had better aim lobbed grenades killing a couple of my brothers. Call that an occupational hazard in an extremism-prone city.
I gave up. How could I teach these people a lesson when they just don’t bother? As I reconciled to being a dumb dump, I understood why they placed me and others of my ilk strategically at bus stops and outside shopping malls. If you have a bus to catch, you can’t really catch the smell, can you? And if you do, you can always step into one of those malls and buy perfumes and handkerchiefs to neutralize my putrid presence.
But all was not lost. My municipal masters found out I was bursting with power. They began emptying me regularly to feed an allegedly imaginary power plant near a wetland. The stuff I ruminated is yet to translate into wattage, but it is learnt to have empowered that wetland with wastage.
This reminds me of a 1996 song titled ‘Garbage’ by Australian alternative rock band TISM. The song goes: “I know that we should separate our garbage/The environment will give us thanks…” I hope the urban environment will thank me one day, whether you learn to separate your garbage or not. After all, I am the most happening in one of India’s most happening cities.
(Autobiography of a typical garbage container in Guwahati)