Attitudinal Shift

Change in attitude is also full of contradictions. I would start with my experience. These days I despise the roadside eateries. I am not against street food. What I find disturbing is the hygiene factor. There is a joint at my local market whose space is severely restricted and it serves food on the tables on the street itself. It a narrow street further congested by parking of cars, bikes and push carts. The cycle rickshaws add to the melee. Couple of round tops is placed on the road and diners eat standing. The road is dusty as side strips of the road are not paved. Dust is roaming in the air and settling on everything around including on the plates in which the eatables are served. The atmosphere is dusty, noisy, polluted and dirty. But in this situation I find young men and women are having Chinese or south Indian delicacies. They don’t mind the surrounding, it seems. I find it awful every time I pass through all these.

Now flash back like Gulzar’s films. Imagine a young man starts to his college at about 6 am by bus or later by bicycling almost every day. None or very paltry breakfast at home at that hour because of various reasons. Never mind, a couple of rupee in the pocket gives enough motivation to traverse about 18 km bicycling (the local bus service was unreliable, erratic and finally stopped in my final year of college). It is about 45 minutes to 1 hour cycling. Just outside the college, on the roadside there was tea shop which also used to serve samosa, kachauri and jalebi. There was no furniture in the shop except for a wooden bench. You have to eat standing holding the leaf plate on your hand balancing precariously two leaf plates at a time, one is filled with hot potato curry and in other two hot kachauris. Finding space to sit on the bench was like winning a lottery. The oven made of clay was extended enough to accommodate the cook-cum-owner of the shop. His cash register (a wooden box) was placed just beside him. The road used to be busy day and night as coal carrying trucks and dumpers plied all the time. It was also the main road connecting to the outside world. Dust specially the coal dust was the norm in the air other than diesel related fumes. Among all these situated our little tea shop. I used to be hungry and exhausted by the time I reached college. So refueling was prime necessity at that time. One rupee was enough for two kachauris and one jalebi and this much was ok for the time being. I never bothered about the surrounding pollution, filth, dirt and dust. I had no trouble from dust and pollution. I was frail (as I am still) but had enough lung power to cycle 36 km a day with a stomach which was half nourished most of the time. I can, at this age, safely say that such dust and pollution did not cause much damage to me.

Now when I look back and ponder about dust, pollution, unhygienic conditions of the roadside eateries, I conclude that hunger, necessity, economy, easy approach, abundance of supply and quick service are the reasons for these eateries surviving the relentless onslaught by govt. agencies, civic bodies, alert citizens and champions of cleanliness. In my locality lots of young boys and girls stay and work in tech companies and call centers. For them a quick bite is essential as cooking is a laborious activity and needs patience besides the wherewithal. Since readymade food is so easily available why bother to cook. But I am sure that when these boys and girls settle down in their lives, they would start thinking the same as I am thinking. There would definitely be shift in attitude, diagonally.

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