For Sinu Joseph and Udaya Bhaskar, bringing a positive change in the society was inbuilt. So, when the garbage pile up began to rise, they decided to charge in. And they did so with vigilance and patience, fighting negative reactions and a reluctance to move away from the routine.
Tired of people just talking about the garbage mess, they decided to be on site; with the garbage collectors and the garbage generators.
For the past couple of months, Sinu and Udaya, both residents of JP Nagar, have been waking up at 6 am everyday to follow garbage collectors so that they can ensure segregation takes place at the grassroot level. Not part of any organisation perse, these Bangaloreans have taken the onus of keeping a part of the city clean on their own.
"People from various NGOs would go to apartments and make these word heavy presentations which would talk about global warming and what not. But the next day when the resident goes out to dispose garbage, he would forget about what he was told," says Sinu.
They started with their own Konanakunte ward and their first target was Nagaraj, driver of the waste collector van.
"When we told him that we wanted to follow him around, he was reluctant and rude. In the beginning, he thought that we would give up. But we were stubborn and showed up everyday," she says.
Thus started their morning expeditions on their two-wheeler. With the garbage van, the duo would go house to house telling people to segregate their waste before they hand it over. But this proved to be difficult. The residents had their side of the story. Most of them complained that Nagaraj would not show up most of the days, he was rude and would zip by their house without collecting the waste.
A small investigation revealed that it was not Nagaraj's fault entirely. "All the garbage from the area was going to a landfill in Lakshmipura. This area witnesses constant protests by various groups which meant that at least two days in a week, the landfill was shut. So, the garbage collectors couldn't unload the waste and hence didn't turn up for the next two days," says Sinu.
Whenever this happened, the entire area would be full of garbage piles. This is when the duo realised that it was not enough for people to segregate but they had to come up with options where the segregated waste could go.
Soon, they figured out a dry waste collection centre and a composting unit and things started changing in the locality. "People who were stubborn earlier started seeing the point of the whole exercise two weeks later. They were smiling at us and also invited us for coffee and breakfast. They were actually showing us the garbage before dumping it," says Bhaskar.
The biggest beneficiary of the whole exercise was Nagaraj and his assistant who started dressing up better as now they didn't have to put their hand in the muck.
The duo followed Nagaraj for three weeks and after that he didn't need assistance. Now he is himself spreading awareness about segregation by educating other van drivers.
Sinu and Bhaskar have identified other garbage collecting autos as well and their fight against the garbage issue continues at 6 am everyday. "This confirmed that our idea of chasing the garbage collector is indeed the shortest and surest way of making segregation at source happen in layouts," they say.