marks on the light posts? asked Mr. Robert, a visitor from England, while meandering through the streets of Shillong. The tourist guide, embarrassed and discomfited, could not find an appropriate answer to his question. He tried to avert the topic but was not successful in dismissing Mr. Robert’s curiosity and his constant query. Unable to ward off the truth, the guide replied, “Sir, these are the lime marks which are rubbed by the people while chewing betel nut”. The tourist seemed much interested and amused by this. However, the guide’s awkwardness knew no limits.
The numerous light posts, which brighten the roads in the city once evening descends, serve not one but many purposes. While in the evening they lighten up the dark roads, in the morning they serve the people as spaces to rub lime. Much to the convenience of the people, these posts have been installed in every nook and cranny of the city; hence the lime marks are no exceptional spectacles. They are seen in every light post, in Police Bazaar, in Barik, in Rilbong, in Dhankheti, in Umpling etc. Once a new light post is bedded in a place, it does not retain its original look for long. In no time, it is decorated with numerous strokes of white lime.
Not only have the electric light posts undergone this terrible plight, along with them the walls have also suffered similar predicament. A freshly and newly painted wall loses its colour due to various forces of the weather. But in the city, the walls lose their beauty because of two major reasons: firstly and undoubtedly, the weather forces and secondly, the smeared lime lines and the red betel spit marks that people so happily spew out while walking past the walls. I guess the people, too, earnestly desire credits for making their contributions and adding more beauty to the, otherwise, painted walls.
While Mr. Das, an agent from Delhi, was sitting and sipping a cup of coffee at Café Coffee Day, he witnessed a rare and atypical sight. He saw a woman, while walking down the road, stop by a light pole and swiftly draw a white line and then, heedlessly walk away. Much to his amusement, he asked his colleague what that was all about. His buddy, a resident of the State, uncomfortably responded saying that it’s just a singular and distinctive characteristic of this place.
But is it enough to simply dispel the ‘not so major issue’? Is this how we amuse and surprise our tourists every time they visit our land? Is this how we maintain public property? Is this how we neglect and quell the efforts of the authorities to beautify our place? Is this how we contribute to doll up and smarten our much endeared city? Is this how we show our disregard to our chattels? Where have all our ethics disappeared?
Shillong, a much visited site by international and national tourists, boasts its beauty to others. Not only that, the Scotland of the East is the most popular of all the hill stations. But our attitude towards the community is not really constructive. It is, rather, destructive. It is high time we instigate our civic senses and realize that government property is not to be disrespected. As a banner reads, ‘Keep Shillong clean and green”.
Therefore, sincere efforts to revamp and titivate Shillong should be made by every individual from every neighborhood.
(By Meghna Deb Roy)