You can’t sweep the smell under the rug

In the States, we have a magic trick: I put my garbage in a garbage bag, nicely secured in a garbage pail.  When it gets full, when I live in a house, I take it to the outside bin that I roll once a week to the curb.  When I live in an apartment complex, I take it to the big dumpster outside.  Then, when I am not here, the garbage truck comes, and poof, just like that, no more garbage.

In India, it seems to be a different story.  I do not know what happens to household garbage, but street garbage suffers a different fate.  When you walk the streets of the city, you don’t see big trucks driven by an anonymous man that you can’t see anyway because he is behind dark tinted windows.  Here, you see a lot of people sweeping the streets.  They sweep the trash into neat piles on the side of the road.  They do this bent in half because they use short brooms.  Footwear is optional.  It’s done mainly by women.


 This is a rather large road in Bangalore.


She’s barefoot.  Most of them wear a head covering.


If you look really closely, you’ll notice that the woman in the blue jacket is wearing a nose ring in each nostril. She’s the only person I have seen so far wearing two.


This is one of the few men I have seen sweeping.  Either he has a longer broom or he’s much shorter!


You can see how she has to bend over.  And in case you’re wondering, no, I don’t go smack into people’s faces to take photos.  This is done from a distance, and I shoot “from the hip”.

The streets stink of garbage (and sewer, plus urine sometimes), no matter how tidy the piles are.


Garbage pile on the left.


Garbage pile on the right.

The piles are not always on side alleys.  There is one right now about 20 feet from the entrance of our hotel.

I wondered what happened to these piles of garbage until I realized that you often see mini fires on the side of the street.  It took me a few days to put two and two together and understand that they burn the garbage right there.  Because it doesn’t smell like burnt plastic, I believe the sweepers have a system of sorting out the trash.

This afternoon, I saw the fires and had my camera at the same time.  This was more in a field than on the side of the road, but the process is the same.  Interestingly, this is within a few feet of some of the IT companies.  You can see the glass window building in the background.


At this point, she’s walking away from the fire.


Then she goes back towards it.

And yes, to the left, there is a cow.

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2 Responses to You can’t sweep the smell under the rug

  1. kayfil says:

    I always wondered what happened to household garbage, until I was renting an apartment in India and had to ask neighbors how to dispose of it, and guess what! You just dump it on the street for the sweepers….

  2. Oh boy… When and where was that?

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