I am reposting this last years post after watching Satyamev Jayate this morning where a lot was discussed about manual scavenging in rural India. I end the post with what I saw on my recent visit to a mall in Bangkok.
Dad called to inform that our ancestral home in Rajasthan was sold .He was sad,and his voice coveyed so.It took me back to my lone trip to that house in childhood .Dad was excited like a school boy,he had springs in his shoes and if normally we could'nt keep pace with him,you can imagine the scene that day.
It was a typical village house in all other aspects except that it stretched vertically more than horizontally.We were welcomed by Prem kakaji and before we could absorb the details of the courtyard and the circular living rooms he announced that the weary travellers were free to freshen up before tea could be served and added with a smile that the toilets were on the second floor.
Second floor ! and we ran up the stairs two at a time , falling over each other in the race to reach the second floor toilets.What is so special about second floor toilets ,one would ask? The mystery will unfold after I elaborate a little on the toilet scene of rural India .
As kids on our annual vacation to Rajasthan we would extensively travel in scorching summers to remote rural areas with our parents.We loved every bit of those explorations except ,you guessed it right,-toilets!
Toilets were built at the extreme end of the huge property .Running from the ancestral Haveli on the sandy grounds, down to the toilet cubicles was strenuous . We hated the exercise and preferred holding back!
That every morning struggle would leave us constipated by the end of our trip and back home in the city, we thought of our toilets as pure luxury . The parched landscape also meant paucity of water and hence no taps were to be found inside and one had to carry a small bucket of water from the 'Haud' . Every morning people ran across the sand balancing a bucket of water to relieve their systems .
Once we reached the toilet complex,what followed next was a series of forced coughing sounds emanating from the several occupied cubicles indicating human presence. So one coughed and someone coughed back and he moved on to the next till his cough met with silence and that is where he was supposed to enter.
The cubicle was adorned with two rough, slipper shaped stones to rest your feet and in the center was a huge hole .The street below could be seen or worse even, a grunting pig or a sweeping scavenger would insert his shovel beneath while you were busy . The trained staff however, kept the area very clean and I do not remember the whole experience as 'disgusting' as it may sound now.
The w(hole)experience made one feel extremely vulnerable.Our daily wish in those days-- kaash! the human excretory system did not have to work on a daily basis.Now praying and all is a pious thing to do and toilet is the last place one would feel like praying but all my prayers were saved for the toilet part those days..
God please let me not feel the pressure today,
God give me strength to control the pressure etc..
That pretty much was the toilet scene in the seventies in rural Rajasthan.
Coming back to that particular trip to the ancestral home,it seemed to be a pleasant surprise .A second floor toilet,wow!!Jostling ,elbowing each other we ran up to be greeted by a very nice carved door .The eldest cousin managed to push himself inside ahead of others and seconds later we heard him laugh like a mad man. Moments later he came out . Curiosity took over our frames and we all peeped in only to be greeted by the all familiar sight of the famous 'hole'. It dropped all the way from second floor straight to the ground. It was kind of concealed from direct vision but nevertheless ,a hole.
So much for the great expectations!!
In complete contrast to what I had described a year ago , is what follows next in this post.Last week while shopping at the Terminal 21 mall in Bangkok,I entered the wash room with my daughter and took my own sweet time coming out of the cubicle.This is what I saw and this is what caught my attention..
Particularly liked the temperature control and dry options.
There was no room for confusion , a nice panel with instructions to use the system was strategically placed on the wall.
mages- curtesy Google, as my pics were hastily taken and not sharp.
Once outside the loo, I was so lost in my total admiration of the basin area beautifully done up in a unique marine theme that I almost entered the men's loo on my way out . Daughter's quick tug at my arm saved me from the embarrassment.
You may laugh at me but I had a detailed 'dekho' at all the wash rooms after that on each floor and I am glad I did that in addition to the retail therapy at the mall.
Two different worlds exist and I am a part of both .Can I make a difference at my level to improve the inhuman conditions, still very much a part of every day lives of millions of Indians ?Writing will help? Talking about it ..? I do not know.. looking at the corruption,I am sceptical of giving monetary aid , I feel that I am afraid of venturing out on the ground leaving my comfortable space behind. Work may only be an excuse.
That definitely does not make me feel good about myself.