Years back when I first stepped out of the country, I set foot in Paris – the city of love and romance. It was very exciting but sadly enough I couldn’t walk out of the airport and run to the Eiffel Tower as that time I was just transiting and was supposed to go to New York for a month. But Paris had been on my mind the whole time and I had decided to take a stop-over on my way back to India. For us Indians after London, Paris holds an inexplicable amount of thrill and thus the simple me also wanted to see what the city of romance held in store. Most of all, it was the love of structures that was drawing me to it and I hoped that the month long stint in NYC ended soon so I could see Eiffel Tower and experience its beauty.Travel the world, but do it responsibly! #ResponsibleTourism #Cleanliness #BetterWorld Click To Tweet
After a month when I landed in Paris again I was on top of the world. The city had so much to offer. It was almost like walking into a live French film, so beautiful, so amazing. My first touristy spot was the Eiffel obviously. I was astounded by its sheer beauty and stunning looks. For me the tower represented grit, determination, perseverance and class. Yes, all of those adjectives bundled in one. The view from the top was breath-taking. The river below, the football ground in view and the various other monuments that one could see in the background, it was all incredible. The place was unbelievably clean and I had a private moment of embarrassment just thinking of how people dirtied the place around the Taj Mahal. What a contrast it was – Agra and Paris. Honestly there was no comparison at all. My love for the Taj is undying, but there is no taking away the humiliation that we Indians cause by littering the whole place around it. The cleanliness in Paris just stuck in my head and it kept making me feel pathetic about how cleanliness was a word that we didn’t recognise in our country at all. But that was 2003 and as they say the years gone by become part of history.
I studied at INSEAD – the Paris based Ivy League Business School, in 2011 and 2012. Though I visited Paris many times after 2003, my last visit was during graduation from School in 2012. And boy was that a shock for me. The beautiful, neat and clean city of Paris had turned into a garbage can and I was flabbergasted at what I saw. Not only that, even the French came across as more grumpy and unwilling to help. It was a complete jolt for me and I shuddered seeing what had become of that once wonderful place. I went to the Eiffel Tower hoping that it would be as untouched and sparkling as it was when I set eyes on it the first time, but I was in for a huge disappointment. The place was littered and; guess what – people had thrown garbage even in the river Seine. They didn’t even spare the river. That was heart-breaking for me. Even the areas around the garbage bins were littered. How can people do that? It was incomprehensible.
Am sure that this wasn’t just the doing of the Parisians! The tourists were equally if not fully responsible for the mess called Paris. Well I didn’t need to assume because I was seeing the tourists throw things around everywhere. It reminded me of my train travel to my village in India during childhood days, when people used to eat fruits and throw the garbage under their feet; while my mother taught us to carry a bag to throw all the garbage into it. Honestly, nothing had changed from those yesteryears to this day. Atleast those people in the train at that time had the benefit of doubt – they were illiterate. Imagine perfectly intelligent and educated people who travel the globe partaking in this nonsense. I sometimes wonder whether the same people do exactly the same thing in their own houses too. Shame, isn’t it, to think that they have double standards. While they take pride in keeping their houses, offices, gardens and cars clean, they don’t hesitate to litter public places.
I know there is a long list of things people need to do in order to become responsible tourists and ensure responsible tourism, but I think if people just make a small start by keeping the environment clean, mother nature will be thankful to say the least. Just treat public places, tourist spots, monuments, gardens, temples, highways as your own and think of how you would feel if someone dirtied your own personal space, before throwing that empty plastic bottle in the river or that empty packet of Lays on the road or worse, the potty’d smelly diaper of your baby in the small space between the footpath and the road.
A small deed goes a long way and this little awareness will make the world a much better place to be in. Don’t you want your children to be proud of the clean and healthy world you leave for them? Just take a moment to think about it, won’t you buddy?
Featured Image Source: outdoor-bulgaria.com