The Ugly Indian volunteers strive to work anonymously and let their actions speak for themselves. They work around the city to keep it as clean as they can, and encourage volunteers to spread the importance of living in a neighbourhood that cleans after itself.
It is not every day that you find yourself out of bed early on a Saturday morning, deep into the middle of summer, to do something that you only read about in books and watch people do in movies. Volunteering to clean up a place seems like a tiring and unnecessary job, not one that anyone would enjoy doing without the right kind of motivation. The end of the experience, however, always brings a change in perspective. All one needs, is the realisation that all the work being done would have been unnecessary if residents had managed to keep their surroundings clean.
The Ugly Indian ensures this. They stand by the motto of “Kaam Chalo, Mooh Bandh”, which translates into “more work and less talk”. Working with a group of anonymous volunteers made me realise that it does not take much to do things that will work for the betterment of the people around you, no matter how big or small that thing may be.
Having worked for over eight years, the Ugly Indian finds “spots” that need fixing in Bengaluru, and organise events on Facebook, asking volunteers to join them at the venue. They specialise in cleaning garbage infested areas and paint the walls around them, making the place look fresh and clean.
As we marched towards the Indiranagar Basketball Club at 7:30am, initially apprehensive about how we would be received, it was heartening to see that all of the volunteers readily welcomed anyone who was willing to spend their morning cleaning up garbage and scrubbing walls. The walls outside the small club and within the boundaries of the Victory Ground, which were filled with the waste dumped from the neighbourhood, were the targets to be cleaned and painted. While some people started by scrubbing the walls before painting them, others began to shift the mounds of small rocks that have been lying outside for many days now.
With the sun coming up, more people began to join the group. After being handed out a pair of gloves, masks and paint, people were being directed to paint different parts of the wall, by a coordinator who guided everyone on how to use less paint and work faster. By 8:30am, the children from the basketball summer camp at the club were done with their coaching, and soon many children started working with us, painting on the walls that they see every day.
People came and went as they found the time to help, and those who remained were treated with tea and juice in small cups as they continued to work, paint splattered on their pants, dust caked in their hair and shoes slimy and filthy from standing in the sewers to reach some of the walls.
The beauty of this action lay in the understanding that everyone present just wanted to make the the city clean, irrespective of who they were or how old they were, as long as they had the energy to do as much as they could. What can be learned from this exercise, apart from the fact that painting walls for three hours can make your arms shake and shiver for the rest of the day, is that much of the filth that people see and complain about, is created by them. Instead of waiting around for authorities to clean up the mess created by residents, it is simply easier to correct ourselves and improve our surroundings to our best ability.