The following experience is shared by an Amrita University exchange student, who is currently in Italy for her final year studies and participated in the Amala Bharatam Campaing (ABC) drive in Italy.
It is for the ﬁrst time that I had participated in a clean up drive in a foreign country. This was in Bergamo, Italy, last Sunday. Previously, I have been part of the ABC clean up drives conducted by the Amrita University and Amma’s followers in Kerala. For me, it always is like going on a picnic. A day spent with friends: shouting, roaming and cleaning! Always so much fun. I still remember the feeling of complete satisfaction after the cleaning is done. That feeling makes me want to go for more cleanup drives. This time at Bergamo, there were two places where we went for cleaning. One was a river area, and another an interior area by the side of a road. Riccardo, a devotee who lives there, drove Savita (my friend and fellow Amrita University student) and I to the spot in his car. He played nice bhajans of Amma during the ride.
Once I reached the place, I was given boots to wear. It is for the ﬁrst time that I was wearing something like that. I am always curious and excited about any new experience. I got into the river. It had very little water, not even up to my knees. It was so nice to walk in the water. I enjoyed walking for sometime. Then I got reminded that I am supposed to be collecting waste. I started searching for waste. It was surprisingly hard to ﬁnd it in the beginning. Then I found plastic bags that were caught in small plants that grew in the middle of the river. I started picking them and ﬁlling my bag. It was like collecting treasure for me! More the waste I collected, the more I felt happy.
Sometimes when I yanked the plastic quickly, I plucked off some leaves and branches of the plants along with it. I felt sad because I am hurting the plant. So I tried to be more patient with the activity. I talked to the plants, and told them that they don’t have to be suﬀocated with the plastic anymore. After sometime, I became lazy to bend and pick the plastic. I started ignoring some of them, even if I saw the waste. I walked past it. But later, I felt guilty that I was not being sincere to what I was doing. So I went back and picked those neglected plastics as well. We spent around one hour there in the water. Then we moved to another place. People had already collected waste from there in several bags.
Our next task was to move the waste to another place. My gloves, pants, and shirt had become dirty. But that was the least of the things that bothered me. There were so much plastic, metal scrap, wood, broken pots, cardboard etc. among the waste we collected!
I did not know most of the people who came for the cleanup. But it was a great time to work with them, everyone focused on their seva and trying to do their best. It gave a very positive and warm feeling for me. After we took a photo together everyone said bye to each other and headed home. It was a great day and a very good learning experience for me.
(Amrita exchange student to Universitá degli Studi di Trento, Italy)