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Garbage Seva:
Janam Da Firangee,
Sikhi Mai Mangee





I was concerned about all the discarded trash and debris I had observed around our Gurdwara Sahib building and parking lot. I decided to undertake some personal seva and clean these areas up once a month. In addition to the gurdwara property itself, I also picked up trash from peripheral areas surrounding our gurdwara.

Within our property there were the usual discarded water bottles, napkins and other paper goods, old toys, and some tattered head coverings. On the periphery, the predominant items were empty and half-empty beer, whiskey, and wine bottles. I am in no way suggesting that all Sikhs are teetotalers - some Sikhs do drink. Moreover, I am not implying that all passers-by are drinkers and specifically targeting a Sikh place of worship for their trash. But I do believe that the latter trash did not emanate from any of the gurdwara-goers.

I was impressed with the cultural contrast between the gurdwara discards and those outside by the public roads. I also had mixed feelings about placing large trash bags filled with liquor bottles in our gurdwara dumpster for fear that some sanitation workers might get the wrong impression.

This dramatic contrast in discarded trash reminds me of an anthropology course I took in undergraduate school in "garbage archaeology." Of course, many traditional excavations have been done in ancient and prehistoric garbage dumps, politely referred to as “middens”, but the focus of this course was research done in modern garbage dumps. A University of Arizona team studied the contents of the city of Tuscon residents' waste to assess patterns of consumption.

One of the findings was questioning the idea that paper was a relatively safe, biodegradable waste product. This research indicated that, for example, newspapers dumped in landfills for over 50 years, were still as intact and readable as the day they were issued.

One of the humorous anecdotes that came out of the garbage archaeological research in Arizona was that when the excavators went to fast food restaurants for lunch, their ‘aroma’ quickly cleared the tables as others customers fled.

Interesting that when I do this seva, an occasional person who sees me does says thank you, whereas others say nothing. I do it regardless.

April 13, 2018

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Janam Da Firangee,
Sikhi Mai Mangee"

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