I must start this blog of today with an apology and some kind of a statutory warning that what you are about to read may not be comfortable for some sensibilities and might leave you with stench and vision of an India that so long we have managed to sweep away from our very thought and vision.
Our PM’s ‘clean India (swachh Bharat )’ program is in full swing; so we are blessed to have come face to face with the ‘ordinary man’ who defecates in the open and whose son these days is mocking him for planning to buy a TV set for Diwali saying, “Dad you will never stay home to watch the TV anyway, since you do not use the toilet which you constructed last year”.
This advert from the government as a jingle, page or voice-over has been following me all day last few days, whether it is the FM radio in my car, or the TV serial break, even the newspapers have full page adds encouraging people to use the toilets. So my mind is working overtime, where I can suddenly and intuitively smell some kind of defecation everywhere I go these days, stronger than ever before.
But hey, this is definitely not the central theme of my blog today, so smell easy! It was just a prelude and trigger to write so you stay healthy and think ‘clean’, no pun intended.
The line of thinking was triggered when I was taking a walk along the street of my residence this last night few hours ago as pre-Diwali parties blared music intermittently on either side. Since the homes are now all lit up with Chinese LEDs (thank God for China’s contribution to our festivals and worship), after a long time I was actually seeing the houses lined up with cars, many of them had huge SUVs parked, that went well past the ramps and obstructing part of the street itself.
Over the years, as our cars grew in numbers and sizes, the ramps grew larger too and I really do not even know when it was, that those open channel drains which used to run alongside the walls of our homes a decade or so ago have now disappeared! The sloped terrain of my neighborhood now allows the roads to get flooded anytime it rains heavy during monsoon. Very soon Delhi could be Venice, but a very unhealthy one because we still would not have the gumption to keep that water clean like they do in Europe.
But no, my imagination is running amok today; so let me share the flip side of this whole idea. Well, I am a marine engineer by education, infrastructure professional and possess some kinky imagination when it comes to piping, be it for sewage, waste-water, water or any other fluids; since we are trained to trace each and every pipe on a ship the moment we join one.
So, I started thinking where did these storm water and waste-water drains disappear. If they are now stuffed with muck or got blocked by concrete, then where is all that water running alongside the roads now going to end up? In the park down the road or the market round the block?
Does anyone ever wonder that the moment we flush our toilet, where the water goes and finally ends up? Do the sewage lines and waste water lines run separate or they conjoin at some location to join those wide and deep nullahs that join with larger ones on outskirts of Delhi and then end up in the Yamuna river? Remember the time when a water line had sewage actually leaking into it in New Delhi? I do and now you know why, right?
If that was so, then what was the difference from one of us who flushes his classy toilet through a touch screen panel in a American modular concept to one who directly puts it along the Yamuna banks, as the man who defecates in the open? We are simply not sure, admit it folks!
Truth is that none of us is educated enough to take a guess how the pipes run under and beyond our homes and localities and we do not care. Also across generations, we are getting more and more carefree and care less for what happens next beyond our physical selves. We care about how clean our house is up to those car ramps, but would not care where the filth ends up, once it’s out from here.
Now there’s nothing new or exciting about this so let me stop right here. But, remember our parents and grandparents took so much interest in community and were voicing what should be done and what not and lines like “when we were young, we used to…..” that made us go “not again!”. Seriously, youth gives us just enough room to find our bearing within the ‘system’ and I am at the age now – to question the system. Sounds ominous? Not any more; see I am writing to find the writer in me and writers do just that!
If mundane issues like toilet usage, right to use of water, government’s obligations to provide effective sewage evacuation and clean water and hygienic environment are not questioned how can we as a country ever realistically conceive to come at par with the western world, who in turn is even calling us a futuristic superpower?
So let this Diwali be for cleansing our mindsets to at least think healthy; while using our apps, knowledge sources et al, let’s get thinking about small things like pipes and drainage so we can lay the questions to a government on a “man ki baat” kind of forums.
Let’s test and see how our governments and leaderships are actually planning in their adverts of a new vision for India. Let us show we are not so weak and ineffective that we are incapable to enforce our citizen rights when we have claims on using google and having an app for everything.
Are these reserves of knowledge we have earned just so we can relive our youth laughing at forwarded WhatsApp jokes and absorbing saintly wisdom from somebody who may not care one bit of what he just thought was wise enough to share?
Now, how much wiser does this realization that defecating on a e-processor toilet system that does not incinerate potentially end up same place where that ‘ordinary man’ defecates? Did you just realize he has his justification and loves the country and his surroundings just as much as our educated selves?
If you are holding your Android on your toilet seat to read this right now – man, just think! Living on outskirts of Delhi anywhere close to the nullahs off Yamuna up to Hindon river has become a smeller’s nightmare within a lot less than my lifetime, so intuitive projections are alarming.
(PS: Yes, the Ministry of Water and Sanitation( all ministries nowadays) do have apps; please check them out once in a while, you might get answers…how horrible can the future potentially be.)