Thursday, October 28, 2010


Now that the Commonwealth Games are over and the Euphoria about the medal tally and acclaim is waning, the investigations into the scam, snags and glitches have begun in real earnest. I think it’s high time for us to introspect about our hygiene standards which have been highlighted as appalling in the world press.

We have over the years assiduously built up an image of a modern India with a fa├žade or proscenium of glass and steel which we have copied from the west to hide the chaotic squalor of the slums and shanty towns that have sprung up in all our industrialized cities. No wonder the foreign tourists take back memories of a land that is synonymous with snake charmers, half naked people living in filth and squalor. The dapper Indian in spite of having arrived on the global stage still alights from his gleaming Mercedes to urinate on the sidewalk, while in the slums people cook, eat, sleep and defecate in the same areas. The roads are clogged with a sea of humanity, vehicles, handcarts, auto rickshaws, and motorcycles all jostling for space on this potholed excuse for the arterial road, while a cow sits placidly in the centre disrupting the flow, but is too sacred to be disturbed.

The rare public toilets called “Sulabh Sauchalya’s” that are provided are in a sordid state of decay and not for the faint hearted. As you enter you are overwhelmed by a powerful stench that will force you to retch; piss/urine, paan stains and faeces are strewn all over the floor like a modern artist’s abstract canvas. Before you can exclaim “holy shit” you will find it splattered all over the walls behind the commode and floor. One cannot even in their wildest nightmares imagine how anyone can manage to shoot shit/crap onto a wall 3 feet above the floor/ground. Even an accomplished acrobat/gymnast or Yoga exponent in the most convoluted position or bizarre asana would find it difficult to defecate and splatter the wall so graphically with shit. Even our sacred cow would need plenty of practice to achieve this target on the wall.
How hard is it to shit into the commode/toilet bowl, even a dog can be trained to aim properly during toilet training without messing the lavatory. Our honorable General Secretary of the organizing committee for the Commonwealth Games Mr. Lalit Bhanot put his foot in his mouth when he claimed that “we Indians have different standards of cleanliness when compared to westerners”. I can understand that most Indians are averse to relieving themselves and cleaning up with toilet paper, and their trained sanitation practices involve the use of water to clean themselves after defecation. Many a time while traveling I too felt that even after using toilet paper some flakes are still etched in the recesses of the rectum and I carefully choose hotels that provide Bidets or bum showers when checking in during my jaunts abroad. But this does not justify Bhanots statement that we should leave excreta, urine and paan stains all over the toilets.

Bhanot bless his soul must be made to visit some of the tourist spots in Europe where he can see for himself the elegant toilets with blue water in the commode, clean as a whistle, shelves stacked with eau-de-toilette, tissue, hand wipes, disinfectants, sanitizers and a vase with fresh flowers all adding to the ambience; now would he succumb to his Indian sensibility standards and squat on the cover to defecate and wash his bum with a bucket of water spilling all over the place? Sure the earlier farmers in villages used to defecate in the open fields for want of toilets, but this is what the Government has to wake up to, if it has to showcase to the world that it is a developed nation. When you spend 50,000 Crores on Commonwealth Games infrastructure you must at least spend 5000 crores on toilets and sanitation facilities to offer a more dignified life for the poor people who live in crowded urban communities. It is ironic that in a country where even a beggar carries a mobile phone showing how technically advanced the country is more than 600 million have no access to proper toilets.