I have taken the topic of Swachh Bharat Abhiyan as my favorite topic for public interest issue and have written down the article both as an article and as a poem. I present the article first:

There was a time when I used to visit my grandparents’ house in Coimbatore in the 1970s and 1980s. The house was spacious on Thomas Street. There were coconut and plantain trees in the rear portion of the house within a well-built and secured compound wall. If I had to go to the toilet to relieve ourselves of shit, it used to be at the fag end of the compound wall. I used to carry a “lota” or vessel of water. As much as we enjoyed our summer vacation, this was a pain, especially at night that too for our cousin sisters who feared going out in the dark. Added to that, there was a threat of scorpions or snakes moving about freely in the dark on the path to the toilet. Those were days of red tiles and a scorpion that would invariably fall from the gap onto the floor, sending a shiver down our spine. I used to pray that these days come to an end. When I returned to Hyderabad after the vacation to attend school, I felt relieved as the toilet was very much a part of our home. No threat of any snakes or scorpions. Call it the growth or development of our nation, we lived fearlessly. My grandparents had gotten accustomed to Indian toilets and that too far away from the main building, used to struggle whenever they came to Hyderabad. Western toilets had just made their inroads into India and we loved their comfort. Little did I know that Indian toilets created a natural exercise for our hips, thighs, and knees and it was any time wiser to use them so that we could live a healthy and long life.

As those used to aping Western-style and falling for money and materialism, I did not realize the future health pangs that were in store for me till we reached my grandparent's age today. Today I go on a daily morning walk as a mandatory exercise to reduce my body weight and stay fit and healthy. I do not have the joy that our grandparents had, as they had built “walking” very much into their routine. I still remember the scavenger (a lady who used to wear salwar kameez- we had never seen that dress till then, as we were familiar only with sarees) coming diligently every Sunday and cleaning my grandma’s toilet in the distant corner with a broomstick and a bucket of water which she used to draw from the well with a pulley chain arrangement. I used to wonder as to how she could bear the stench and do such an inhuman thing. I felt greatly relieved when the machine type of scavenging came to India. I am, in particular, shocked to learn that manual scavenging still exists in some parts of India. Picking up feces or human excreta is the worst form of insult one can heap on any self-respecting person.

It calls for single-minded dedication to see the end of such an inhuman practice which is an anathema for one and all. I must compliment our dear Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modiji for embarking on the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan mission. Now when I visit cities/ towns/ villages either as a part of my official or personal visit by train/ bus, I do not see our fellow Indians squat in the open defecating with their “lota” of water. There are sufficient toilets built and there has been a paradigm shift in our own attitude that we should use them. Unless such a cultural change is brought about, our India would not have progressed to the extent it has in the last 8 years. There were people who made a mockery of our PM who said “We need more toilets than temples” way back in 2014 when he made this statement. Today they are made to eat humble pie and are taking back their words. If India has to become as clean as Singapore, each one of us as Indians has to take that sort of ownership to make it happen. It is not enough by giving lectures and not following them through.

The overall health of Indians has also improved because of this cultural change. As a country, India was well prepared to face the pandemic Covid-19 also because of this change. What could further propel us to becoming a superpower, would be to eat healthy with immunity-boosting foods and not junk foods like pizza, burgers, noodles, etc. which we have imported from western countries. Yoga which is our own form of exercise both for body and mind and which took birth in India can create wonders. It is nice to see that we are taking it to the entire world as we believe in the concept of “Vasudeva Kutumbakam” or “The entire world is our brother or sister”. We strongly believe in the statement “United we stand, divided we fall”.

Not only have the mushrooming of public toilets helped us ease ourselves in public, but it has saved our womenfolk from the embarrassment they had earlier. There were cases of “rape” when women went to open fields to relieve themselves. These are now on the decline. Also prolonged period of controlling ourselves from pissing or shitting leads to health problems, which will not happen anymore for both Indian men and women. 

Jai Hind!

Come Clean

It has been there from 2014,
It has made all our Indians come clean.
Open defecation free,
Only way to remain healthy.
Call it Swachh Bharat Mission or Abhiyan,
Can we ever be away from this Nazdeekiyan?
100% rural sanitation coverage is not a joke,
And there is a toilet for even those who are broke.
Good character by keeping body, mind & soul clean & peaceful.
God resides in such places, which we call a “temple”.
The 2nd phase is still “on”,
The imminent need for us to end it is successfully upon. 

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