The Ugly Indian is a citizen initiative that wants us to take responsibility for the things we complain about and work proactively towards finding a solution
The Ugly Indian isn't an NGO. Their website is clear about explaining that there are 'No lectures, no moralising, no activism, no self-righteous anger'. In fact they don't even talk to the media. "What you see is what you get and we aren't taking questions unless you have a sturdy idea to solve a civic issue in your locality and want assistance," said the polite email we received from a nameless volunteer.
A young Ugly Indian volunteer helps paint a wall in Bengaluru
The job of the site, however, is to make citizens aware of their lackadaisical attitude towards problems in their wards and urge them to take relevant actions to combat the issues.
A screen grab of the website
As you reach their homepage, you are asked a simple question -- Why are our streets filthy? You can choose from multiple answers like 'It's the 'system', stupid, It's our corrupt governments, It's the uneducated people and Because we are all Ugly Indians.' No prizes for guessing what they would like you to say.
The first step is admitting you have a problem. 'Kaam chalu mooh bandh (Stop talking, start doing) sums up the philosophy of the initiative that doesn't have a long-winded 'About Us' page dedicated to propounding lofty ideals.
Instead, you are guided through a series of citizen initiatives that have been fuelled purely by well-meaning people and proved successful in the long run.
Visitors to the site are free to email in suggestions and success stories but administrators of the site have certain guidelines that declare a drive as successful. The action must sustain in a public street for 90 days without constant supervision, should be low-cost and easy to replicate, should change the behaviour and attitudes of all concerned and be unobtrusive to the eco-system.
They aren't putting anyone down. 'It takes only one Ugly Indian to undo the good work of a hundred others,' warns the site. Success stories include the creation of a specially-designed bin for cigarette butts at a local Bengaluru cafe, cleaning and painting a wall that would constantly be dirtied with paan stains and fitting lids on open manholes with the help of locals.
The site also offers fair warning to cynics who don't believe our cruel world can change and is able to maintain a sense of humour till the end. "By entering this site you accept that-- We Ugly Indians are part of the problem and only we can solve it. 'We are like that only is cute. But does not help. You believe that change is possible in your lifetime. Foreigners may enter -- but secretly!"