The Mobiustrip

The Mobiustrip

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Sanitation. Or lack thereof.

I have received more questions about sanitation and requests for pictures of the 'mori' than any other aspect of the slum-stay. So here goes.

For more clarity, these are the purposes it served.

The mori sufficed in every way, except one. Defecation. 
Legal slums that I visited, like those in Wadala with numbered houses and proper addresses, have closed toilets. No running water, but there are four walls within which one can defecate. You carry your bucket of water and endure the smell, but you have some privacy.
Since this slum was an illegal one, there was no such provision. So men and women just went in the open, next to this area by the sea where fish were dried. It was more of a dump yard really. 

The only cleaning mechanism in the area was the presence of pigs. Anyone familiar with a pig's diet will know what I mean.

No water, no lights, no walls.

In the adjacent slum, women are frequently dragged into the bushes by men and raped when they go to do  their business. These are then discussed in hushed tones, but rarely reported.

I hadn't quite been able to bring myself to visit the place till another friend of mine living in a more decent slum came visiting. She was intrigued, and I finally mustered the courage to go see this place with her. Poonam and Neelam took us for the tour.

Neelam found a 2 rupee coin in the area that she quickly picked up, while we were busy absorbing the shock.

The silver living was that you couldn't smell the fecal stench. Because you were overpowered by the smell of dried fish,  which hangs like clothes right next to  the area. 

A dash of humour during this expedition came in the form of my friend's curiosity and, well....guts!

Alpita : I don’t get it, where do the women go?
Me : Right where you are walking in.

Alpita : (Keeps walking in) But there is no place to go here, it is an open dump yard. I  don’t get it.

Me: Stop going in!

Alpita :  (Walking in further) But……(Stopping in mid-speech) Ok, I can see shit.  (And she wasn't speaking figuratively)

Me : Very brave! Now get out of there!

Alpita :  (Out of  the area) I think am in shock. And I need to take a shower.

There was a hilarious perspective-building exchange I had with Rekha soon after.
She was telling me of a visit to this village called Shanishingnapur near Pune. It is reputed because no house in the village has doors, so strong is their faith in the powers of the local god, Shani. There is never a theft in the village because it is believed  that anyone trying to steal will end up in front of the mandir, no matter where they try to go.
No doors also mean no closed bathrooms. The women of the house wake up by 4am and take a  bath outside the house before the men wake up. Rekha found this to be an invasion of privacy and refused to bathe outside. 

She succinctly summed up how violated she felt there - "They had no mori!", she said. 

I had to bite my lip to keep myself from laughing. 

Before going into the slum immersion program, I had been concerned about finding a clean toilet. Soon after, I re-calibrated my priorities. I now prayed for a closed toilet.

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