Spirit Of Mumbai

Tell me what is it that you would like to read on your newspaper front page? or What news would you prefer to give a full page coverage? Sports, Cricket, Politics or cricket politics, Bachchans vs King Khan, Gossips, Bollywood news? These are some of the topics which is given unnecessary priority by the news media to acquire more readership. Today the news media is also on a bandwagon to give unnecessary importance to gossip news. In Malayalam such news papers are termed in the category called ‘Manyapatram’ (don’t bother to try pronouncing that), Its literal translation ‘Yellow Newspaper’.

But once in a while such news comes like a fresh of breath air. People such as Syed Nazima Amir Ahmed deserves more media coverage than the stupid Bachchans private life and their rivalry with Khan because these are the peopl, who try to pump blood to keep this city alive in their own little ways. After reading this article I am sure we won’t have Mumbaikars coming out with brooms and start cleaning public areas but at least such stories will be exaples for individuals to help heep their city clean, who won’t litter public areas. Hygiene is a matter of concern in Mumbai and the least we can doas individuals is try to keep the city clean; use dustbins, do not spit, do not litter, do not dispose garbage at open public areas. A little conscious effort can definitely bring in drastic changes. As the Hindi saying goes “Boondh boondh se banthi hai sagar”. Have a clean weekend folks.

Fro those who cant access the link here is the news I am refering to

She can put BMC’s much-celebrated clean-up marshals out of job. She can also put a lot of us Mumbaikars to shame.

Syed Nazima Amir Ahmed, 39, a resident of Mumbra and an employee of Bombay Mercantile Co-operative Bank’s Masjid Bunder branch, spends her lunch break every day cleaning up the litter at Masjid station.

And that is not all. In the morning, before she boards the 8.30 am CST local, she spends an hour cleaning up the Mumbra station and then uses the commute to rid the ladies compartment of garbage and at times talking fellow commuters out of spitting or chucking stuff around.

Nazima, who did not marry because she never found a man who would understand her, has been following this routine for 11 years now. She hasn’t been discouraged by insensitive commuters who often pick fights with her nor has she been deterred by the litter reappearing in bigger quantities every day at the stations she serves and the trains she rides.

“Where is the question of feeling discouraged or deterred. I do not do this work to prove a point to anyone. I do it for myself. If through my actions I am able to bring about a change, that will be a bonus,” she told this correspondent on Thursday afternoon as she went around Masjid station picking up wrappers, cigarette butts, bottles and torn tickets.

Syed Nazima Amir Ahmed

The maintenance employees at the station call her Aapa. They follow her instructions as and when she points to an area that needs to be sweept or washed and she chats them up like long-known friends. They seem to like it when she is around. “She is Aapa. She is here every day. She goes about collecting garbage without any fuss. She even instructs us if she spots any place on the platform which needs to be swept. We respect her and do not mind following her instructions,” said a sweeper woman.

Station Master Ashok Bhatia said it’s strange but he never felt Nazima was interfering with his staff’s duties. “I guess it’s something about the way she conducts herself. She brings tremendous amount of dignity to what she is doing. And she is completely selfless. I don’t know how you people came to know about her,” he said.

On her way back to the office, Nazima took the P D’Mello Road. It’s a longer route and would take her 10 minutes more than a short cut that cuts past a small gully. But a plastic garbage bin in that gully has been stolen and Nazima must make the detour to find another bin to dump all the garbage she has collected in a plastic bag.

How it all started

Nazima picks up waste strewn all over Masjid station during her lunch break

It was struggle against post-lunch lethargy that pushed Nazima into what seems to now have become a passion. “I used to feel sleepy after lunch. One day I decided to take a walk to Masjid station. As I walked around aimlessly, I noticed the platform was full of litter. I saw people chucking torn tickets and gutkha wrappers just metres away from a dustbin. I began picking up the litter. It was just an impulsive action. But at the end of it, I felt a sense of satisfaction and before I knew I was doing it every day,” she recalled.

She has gotten into fights with commuters when she ticked them off for littering. “But I back off quickly. I am not here to pick up fights. Also, it would be wrong on my part to expect people to follow me. I am doing what I want to do, what they do is their business.” Nazima said.

Nazima knows every railway employee of Masjid station. Here she discusses a point with the station master

Many of her relatives have often tried to tell her, directly and indirectly, how embarrassing it is to see her picking up other people’s litter. “I do not pay heed to them. I understand their position. Trouble is, they will never even make an attempt to understand mine,” Nazima said.

In the office also she is often asked by her colleagues why she wastes her lunch break trying to clean up a hopelessly dirty station. “They often tell me that ‘commuters will never learn and you alone will not be able to make a difference’. My argument is simple — this city will remain a dirty, stinking dustbin till such time people begin to clean up their act. A BMC or a railway administration can never keep our public spaces clean. It’s we who have to take the responsibility,” Nazima said.

On her way back to office, Nazima finds a dustbin to dump the bag full of garbage

Senior Public Relations Officer, Central Railways, C Pitambaram said Nazima is doing exemplary work. “The lady’s activities are a sign of right civic sense. We keep announcing at stations that commuters should help us keep stations clean. We are happy she is doing that and expect all commuters to join her.”

The question is how many of us are willing to shed our lethargy and join her. Are you?

1 Comment so far

  1. nku (unregistered) on November 29th, 2007 @ 3:01 am

    Good job! I knew a person who used to do similar cleaning in our classroom in engineering college. Some of the folks were vehemently against such “voluntary cleaning”. In their own words, “There are sweepers being paid for that work. If I do their work, what is their job?”

    I tried arguing with them, but no avail.



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