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The Clean Beach

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By SAVITRI NARAYANAN

Jennifer completed her homework and heaved a sigh of relief. She packed her school bag and headed for the dining table. James was already seated, the spoon and fork in hand, humming a tune.

“Mom, I’m hungry!”, he called out.

“Be patient, children”, mom replied from the kitchen, “The salad is almost done!”

“Do we have to have salad every day?”, asked James.

“Yes, of course!”, said Dad as he walked in and took his place at the head of the table, “It’s healthy for growing children!”

“Here you are, my dearies, grab your food”, said Mom as she placed the bowl of salad on the table and took her seat too.

The D’Souza family looked forward to the dinner time. In the mornings they left home one after the other and in the evenings they came home too at their own times. Mom was back from office a little before the school bus arrived. She got busy with errands or rested for a while. James and Jennifer did their homework. When done, they rushed to the park to join their friends. When they returned by sunset, Dad too would be home. He would be either relaxing with a book in the front verandah or working in the garden. Everyone had things to do throughout the day. The dinner time was when everyone sat around and shared their news.

“Guess what!”, Jennifer was excited, “Tomorrow our class is going to Kaltti Beach!”

“Our class too”, joined in James, “It’s our monthly outing!”

“You mean classes VII and VIII are going to the beach tomorrow?”, asked Mom.

“Take along your swimsuits”, said Dad, “Have fun swimming in the sea!”

“Are you crazy?”, laughed Mom, “Imagine fifty children let loose in the sea! And half of them won’t know how to swim!”

“Our madam said to wear the sports shorts; we can wet our feet, splash in the water too! What fun!”, said James.

“We also have to carry a spare dress just in case our uniforms get wet!”, added Jennifer. “Jen, don’t forget to taste the seawater”, James reminded his sister, “It is salty! Really salty!”

The next morning, there was excitement in the air as they packed their picnic bags and boarded the school bus.

* * *

But in the evening at the dinner table, there was no excitement!

By the time the children returned it was too late for outdoor play. There was no homework to do either. Jennifer and James switched on the TV and had to be called several times for dinner.

“So how was the outing?”, asked Dad as he pulled his chair and sat down, “Let’s hear all about the Kaltti Beach!”

“It was fun but the beach was so dirty!” “Paper plates, ice-cream cups and empty water bottles everywhere!” “How can people be so careless?”

“It must be the tourists who dirty the beaches!”

“There’s no use complaining”, said Mom, “It’s time for action!” “What do you mean, Mom?” “It’s not the tourists but people like us who throw rubbish on the beach, isn’t it our responsibility to clean it too!” “You mean we clean the beach?”

“Why not?” said Dad. “This Sunday Umesh Uncle is coming from Mumbai with Sarita Aunty and Anuj. Their neighbours too haven’t been to Goa for long so might come along. We can have a beach outing; let’s see what we can do about the rubbish!”

Along with their swimsuits and towels, Jennifer and James packed some trash bags too. Once in the beach, the grown-ups spread the mats and sat around while the children ran to the sea. They had a great time jumping in the waves and splashing in the sea. Making sandcastles in the wet sand was fun too.

“I’m hungry!”, said Anuj. “Me too, said Jennifer!”

The sandwiches and Biriyani seemed more delicious on the seashore. When they had their fill, the children slipped away. With their trash bags they went around collecting garbage. Plastic water bottles, beer bottles, polythene bags, paper plates – all kinds of junk were left behind by the public. Good, there was a dustbin too!

“It’s no big deal, said James, “Don’t we clean our school campus before the assembly?”

Priyanshu who went to school in Mumbai said, “In our school, before the morning assembly we’ve a single bell; all the students spread over the ground looking for rubbish to put in the dustbin! Within two minutes the whole ground is clean!”

“What would take two hours for one cleaning staff, we students do in two minutes!”, remarked James.

“Practice what you preach! Be the role models!”, Jennifer laughed out aloud, “Remember how Sushma Madam says often? Now it actually makes sense!”

“If only these people had teachers like Sushma Madam, they won’t dare throw rubbish around!”, said James.

The grown-ups fondly looked at the children with pride glowing in their eyes.

“I’m sure that at least some people will get inspired by watching our children”, said Mom, “And clean up their waste!”

“See how clean the beach is!”, shouted the children as they returned, “It’s no big deal! It took only a few minutes and we liked it too!”

“The world will be a better place with children like you who spread this awareness!”, replied Umesh Uncle, “Let’s have an ice cream treat to celebrate our children!”

 (The author is a retired educationist at present in Goa. A mother and a grandmother, loves reading, writing and travelling.)