Monday, October 10, 2005
Swami Prajnananda on the sanitary habits of Indians ...
"They will jealously guard the privacy of their meals but have no compunctions about voiding their bowels in public view."
True enough. I daresay a lot of my country-men (and women) would be more blase if they were espied squatting behind a thorn-bush, than if they were caught sharing a thaali with a mlechcha.
It's not always about the availability of sanitation or running water, either. We've had this campaign for rural sanitation (instantly re-named the Potty Prokolpo) and I've seen newly-built sanitary privies used to house goats or store cowdung cakes.
One of our proselytising arguments was that sanitary privies also safeguard the modesty of the women of the household. Big deal. The women in question love their morning excursion, it's when they catch up with all the news, it's the big social occasion most days.
The men, who take over the hedgerows and fields once the women return, have much the same attitude. In rural Bengal (and indeed most of rural India) when you "say can you see by the dawn's early light", it's likely to be about Brojen Boiragi and Mehboob Miyaan chewing their neem daantoons and discussing harvesting strategies while they, um, multi-task.
The West has a long way to go before they can catch up on this, though I read somewhere that Lyndon Johnson used to de-brief (intended) his Secretary of State while he (LBJ) was enthroned.
And a priceless story that I couldn't use as part of our 'modesty' argument.
Noted Bangali litterateur had imbibed all night with his good friend who was at the time District Officer in the laal maati (red earth) belt. In the wee hours of the dawn, Writer informs Bureaucrat that he has this urge that cannot be denied. He MUST go see 'Gurudeb'. (For Bangalis, 'Gurudeb' = Robindronath Thakur. Though in my youth, Uttam Kumar's appearance on screen would also be greeted with ecstatic shouts of 'Guruuuuuu! Eshe gechhe'. But as usual, I digress ...)
So bureaucrat and bhodrolok were slumped in the back seat of a white Ambassador speeding towards Shantiniketan in the dark before dawn, when our man cocked a bleary eye over the window edge and saw the dim shapes of the morning gazette (first shift) in action. His defining comment was ... "For shame! THIS is how they waste their lovely backsides?"
I never claimed to be politically correct.
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