I was so naive back then. My first surprise was that the garbage collector does not drive a truck. Don't get me wrong, I didn't expect the barrel lifting mammoths that I see in the US, but I did a expect a motorized vehicle. Instead I saw a very skinny man, riding a very old bicycle, with a very big bag of garbage on the back. Seriously, how does that thing stay on? My elementary school book bag often threw me off balance, that garbage bag is way beyond my skill level. Even with the third wheel, one good corner would finish me off.
But I think we must go back a step or two. Uday takes our dust bin outside around 9:00 or 9:30 every morning. On a couple of occasions I have noticed that he will pluck something out and hand it to Camla who will go set it out back, to be taken upstairs with them later. Then, while the dust bin waits outside for the garbage collector, the guard has a look. He will often set aside 2 liter pop bottles, bags in good condition, or any kind of electronic component. We once had a guard who picked out a few scratched CD's and decorated his bicycle. Then comes the garbage man. Here he is called a raddiwallah, or garbage vendor. He presorts the garbage at his cart, then he takes the garbage from the neighborhood to a shack on the corner where he and several other men (members of his family I believe) sort it into larger piles. The piles seem to go something like this: recyclables, things that can be salvaged, things that can be burned, things that can be fed to dogs and the rest. Since we only pay him $1 a month for picking up our garbage, I assume the rest of his money comes from selling the recyclable and salvageable things.
I have to admit that this has made me paranoid about what I throw out. For the next week, every time you are about to drop something in the garbage, think about how you would feel if the people in your neighborhood were going to see it and know where it came from. The letters and papers that I should have been shredding for years are finally getting shredded. Receipts for embarrassing amounts of money (anything over Rs. 1000, or $25) are destroyed. When I throw out food that we didn't eat before it went bad I wonder what they will think of us. When I am getting rid of old t-shirts that have too many stains, I put them in plastic bags so they won't get gross. Did I need any more guilt or neurosis in my life? Not really.