Sipping cold coffee while accompanying a friend to the university gate, early on a winter afternoon, after writing an exam, was all good. She had to catch the bus to her town, so she left. I remained waiting for my friend, who was to arrive in a few minutes, so that we could go out and buy some daily needs stuff. I was standing in front of the main gate holding two empty transparent plastic glasses of the cold coffee we had just had and was looking for a trash bin. Saying she wouldn’t find a bin near the bus stop on the other side of the road, my friend had left me hers to dispose of too. Holding both the glasses in one hand and my phone in the other, my eyes started looking around for a bin.

I have always been particular about not littering, I never throw a piece of trash, or at least try not to, anywhere other than bins. Not only do I practice this since my schooldays but also I usually criticize my friends when they litter around. Everybody who hangs out with me knows this very well.

So there I was, looking at every possible corner and probable place for a bin, moving from one shop to another. To no avail. I wondered what to do? Had it been something dry like a wrapper or something, I would have put it in my bag, but I couldn’t do that with the glasses. Like anybody else, I started looking for a place where they usually throw trash and spotted a heap of waste fruit material beside a juice cart outside a shop. I pondered for a second and threw the glasses on the heap of used sugarcanes and other fruit pulp. As I turned back and started moving towards the university gate, a voice hailed me, “Oh hello!!”. I turned back to be told, “Uthao isko”, by the irate shopkeeper.

Now this was something unexpected. A train of thoughts rushed into my mind about what I did, whether it was right or wrong, how do I react, do I pick them up or do I argue. “It’s already thrown in the waste”, I replied confusingly. The man complainingly said again, “Don’t throw it in front of my shop, throw it elsewhere”. I replied back, “But there is already a lot of trash outside your shop, I’m not dirtying your place, I’ve thrown it where it’s already dirty”. Seriously, the heap of trash wasn’t actually outside his shop, it was a little away. and I’m not that idiot to litter in front of a shop. “Do you have a dustbin?” I asked. “No”, he replied. “Then where do I throw it?” I fired another question. “Throw it on the road, throw it anywhere else but don’t throw it here”, he snapped, by now upset. Just then my friend came and took me out of that quarrel with the glasses were still where I’d thrown them. Mood off, with an absent mind, I went buying our daily needs with my friend.

I was nagged by a feeling guilt for what I did. A story of Mahatma Gandhi, which our 3rd grade Hindi teacher had told us, kept flashing through my mind. The most punctual man of India was once late to class due to a fault in his watch. His professor did not accept the explanation and punished him anyway. The moral of the story was to not show any leniency in your behavior and practices. Be adamant in following the principles of your life. Never think you can slack off because nobody’s watching. Your good deeds may never be appreciated but your every wrong will cause you embarrassment. That’s what I was reminded of today.

All the time my friend was buying things I was lost in that short incident, and on our way back to the university, after around 30 minutes, I could not keep myself from picking up those glasses from that heap of waste. I didn’t care if the shopkeeper saw me doing it but my friend did frown at me for putting my hands in that waste fruit pulp. Those glasses were then thrown into the bin inside the uni. Not gonna repeat the mistake again. I got my lesson.