A few days ago, I watched on national TV here in South Africa, contestants of the Amazing Race in tears after seeing emaciated people, children and animals crouched around waste heaps dumped in front of dilapidated buildings alongside the street they raced on to Jaipur, Rajastan, India. Amazing Race is seemingly one of the most expensive Reality Contests in the world bringing to the winner team 1 million U.S Dollars in price money. I wondered if it was not using India’s third world impoverishment, to tame its first world contestants turning them tender-hearted and if India was taking any pride in that? It brings in income, but not definitely to the sufferers. That the slum tourism in Mumbai fetches millions of dollars to the business owners is not a secret. Turning the life of its hell-hole-dwellers into a visual feast for the delicate global viewers, the producers and the artists of the Slum Dog Millionaire clinched many millions and many Oscars.
How true is the fact that India is a country of unlimited opportunities!
It is not only in the public places that the filth is stifling neatness and purity. Go to the hotels, bed- and-breakfast establishments and hostels. The story is not very different. Even private homes are no exception.
It was a ‘savarna’ (a racial theory that people are different by birth) mandate in India that only people of low birth or the ‘avarnas’ engaged in cleaning and others enjoyed it. So cleaning was never instilled here as a personal habit or a mandatory life-skill. There was always somebody lower, a maid or a worker, to do the cleaning both inside and outside of the household. As a continuum, in the present dispensation, public places are government’s responsibility so that the individuals take no responsibility in the upkeep of them. At homes, it is the responsibility of the females.
In South Africa children irrespective of their gender have chores at homes, schools and hostels. They take pride in their public places by not littering them with waste. Once in the University they are not generally allowed to continue in the hostels after they have turned twenty. By that time they are supposed to cook, make their bed, wash plates, dust the floor, iron linen and keep the surroundings clean. At homes both men and women do the family chores.
So youngsters in India, forget the old theories and take responsibility for your home chores. Create awareness in yourself and in others on cleanness and take pride in keeping our country neat and clean. If everybody keeps his or her home and yard clean and assists the government to keep the public places clean that can fetch more pride than that in slum tourism. After all, the privileges afforded to us by the Indian democracy do have a certain set of responsibilities with them.
Born and brought up in Kerala, the southern most state in India, the author is a teacher by profession.