Every so often when we are sitting in our cubicles slogging in our 9-5 jobs, a craving pops up i.e. to take a vacation. The mind gets too clogged with details and deadlines about the next consignment our bosses, so militaristically pressure us into meeting.
It was only a matter of time before the head exploded in panic and your body thumped down like a lump of lard on the chair. I wasn’t willing to let that happen to me. So I went to my boss. I said, “I need a vacation”.
Boss replied, “No, we still have work to do to meet the deadline at the end of the month”. Hearing this “no” triggered off a train of thoughts in me.
Any and every kind of events that went down my memory as being mean and undesirable about my boss came rushing into my cognizance. I won’t go into the details of the thoughts because I am sure you know what I mean.
What followed was a rebellious rush of impulsive thoughts that made me say to him, “Ok, sir”. And I went back to my cubicle. My words were calm and “slave-like” as they always had been.
The tone always assured my boss about my subservience. But this time beneath my calm tone was a conviction to disobey.
This seed of rebellion was planted in me since the day my colleagues had gotten the much prized promotions and not me, in spite of me having worked the hardest in the last 2 years.
Today the plant from the seed had borne fruit. And I was to pluck and eat it. So I finished my job that day and left the office without submitting a leave of absence.
I was to take a long leave from the humdrum of the 9-5 to fulfill my much cherished dream of being a trash tourist. Now, I do understand that you do not know much about trash tourism.
And it’s very natural of you to not know. The only trash tourist in the world is writing this account and that too for the first time.
Trash tourism is the act of traveling and staying in places other than your usual environment to enjoy the sights and vistas of pollution on mostly pristine landscapes.
Places in my list that are rated the highest are those which are extremely hard to reach and mostly uninhabited but still manage to have some or the other form of land pollution in one or more of its pockets.
Places that are totally pure and pristine with no pollution do not interest me and are placed low on my list. Places that are crowded and popular, with huge pockets of polluted land are in the middle of my list.
And finally the places that are popular and are bustling with habitation but have managed to remain neat and clean without a single empty packet of potato chips or bottle of mineral water/cola are the ones that occupy the lowest places on my list.
In short I love the sight of trash on pristine landscapes. Shorter still, I love trash. The only Trash I didn’t like was my boss.
Being a free man with a lofty savings account meant that there were innumerable destinations in the world to set sail to. I had access to every kind of topography and terrain that the physical world had to offer. Mountains? I had that; Sea Beaches? had those; Deserts (Hot and cold)? Check that; Forests? Check; Great riverine plains having the most diverse culture and languages? Yeah, ok. But the most important thing was to make sure wherever I went, I was not too far away from the first empty pack of cigarettes or plastic.
Due to this consideration of mine, I had to visit to countries of the global south, in other words India, Pakistan, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam etc. The developed countries were too neatfor my sensibilities.
I had packed my camera and its batteries to document all the trash that I was to come across and also make video logs. And so started my journey the very next week and did not come to an end up until a few days ago. It was a jolly good 4 years of trash traveling.
I went to the great mountains of the Himalayas first. For the first few days of journeying to the mountains I filmed a lot of trash on the sides of the road, in the forests and camping grounds.
I even saw bottles and other trash flowing down the rivers. It was amazing. People never disappointed me there in India. They knew exactly how to keep my spirits high.
As soon as a place started feeling clean, there was someone or the other to gratify me by discarding some article made of paper or plastic. The sheer dedication of the people there in India to not follow rules and break pollution norms touched my heart.
Even in the most restricted of places, an Indian man had the ability to overlook the risk of paying a hefty fine for littering and did it anyway.
It brought tears down my eyes. India was special. Most of India was amazing, with me not having to scout much for trash. I even found trash in the sea beaches in India.
Remember, the places I had mentioned before, the ones that were placed the highest on my trash list, ones which were uninhabited and perceivably pristine and pure and yet had some trash in it, if looked at with a discerning eye?? Yup, I found those rare places in India and Pakistan.
These countries had the privilege of having the best tourists I had ever seen. Even the glacial hiking routes of Indian and Pakistani mountain ranges greeted me with empty packs of snacks, cola and alcohol bottles. Most of Vietnam, Thailand and Indonesia had locations that ranked the middle in my trash index with high population and pollution ratio.
The Deserts of Africa did not disappoint. Another area which ranked the highest in my Index was the Northern pacific region, off the coasts of Japan.
Once during my travels I found myself in the middle of the ocean. It was an early morning and the rest the people in the boat were enjoying the morning sunrise. I was feeling dejected and depressed.
The waters were devoid of trash. It was disheartening. The chatter of the tourists behind talking about the beauty of the planet and about conservation of wildlife and all was really starting to get on my nerves.
I just wanted to get back to the cruise liner and into my room. It was all pathetic. But suddenly after a while the trash gods showered their blessings on me and I sighted plastic stuck on to a dead fish floating around.
It was the most beautiful thing I had seen in my life. The sight of morning rays of the sun being reflected on the pink plastic was a life-altering experience for me.
It made me calm and blissful. After all this, I do understand that you might think of me as some mental case or a fruitcake to be going on so much about my trash loving.
But I want to tell you that liking something or fixations are not of a logical nature. One never asks or analyses the pros and cons of liking something. It just happens.
Some men like machines, some like art, some beauty, some love to dance in the rain. I like trash. That’s that. And so today the 27th of September I write this account on my bed in the hospital.
The occasion is “the world tourism Day”. After 4 years of globetrotting in the trash I have acute lead and asbestos poisoning, Doctors say it will be a while before I can carry on again on this journey of mine.
But for now I dedicate this account to all the people out there who share my passion for trash-watch and I say to you, “Never let someone tell you what to love and like, your life, your choice, have no regrets.” Over and out !!