The trail was empty for the longest time and then one guy strayed on my path, he clapped his hands and said good job. What people don’t realize is that I’m selfish in cleaning the place up. It gives me satisfaction to see an expanse of brown and I can walk without having to watch out for broken glass and other trash. Today, I managed to clear only a small section, the bag got full and heavy as there were many glass bottles. There is so much rubbish, this is going to take a while.
The gloves make my palms hot, sweaty and smelly. Thankfully, there was sanitizer which sort of masked the horrid smell but it still lingered. And I thought of all the medical personnel with the PPE suits who spend hours together soaked in perspiration while treating those afflicted with Covid. Drinking a glass of water, using the washroom and other such tasks that one takes for granted would be such a challenge in those suits. I thought of the discomfort of all the women in healthcare who faced the additional burden of dealing with their periods, often bleeding onto their clothes. And I thought of millions of migrant women walking back with little to no access to privacy to deal with childbirth or menstruation. The ickiness with the smelly hands was no longer bothersome.
The trail makes me think of others, it is time away from the screen and in the quiet of its heart, I sift through the unknown faces I see or read about during the day. These days with the added movement of picking up trash, I find a different quality to the thoughts. Physical work always does to me, it simplifies things to their bare essentials. The mind automatically kicks into a kind of efficiency mode and I watched the constant stream of chatter in the head.
“Another bag full of trash collected. I shall keep the tiny blue bottle from the trash as a reminder of today. Make it a planter. There are many intact bottles, it would be nice to upcycle those. But how to manage the logistics and who will upcycle? Also the sanitizing and storing. Maybe the child can paint those bottles and we can put plants in them and give them to people? I need to put a little thought to make this more meaningful.”
Mr.C is usually there around the same time and we exchange hellos and pleasantries, he reminds me to be careful and I defer to his mop of white hair. He’s planted a banyan sapling near the peepals. It makes me very happy, the thought of a giant tree that will grow there. And years from now, there will be other people who come seeking the open and quiet and they will look at that tree. Maybe they’ll wonder how a lone banyan tree grew on a hillock. What they will not know is that it was an old man who planted a tree knowing fully well that he would not live to sit under it’s shade. Many are the lessons these walks teach.