Are we unhygienic by nature?

An american writing group friend of mine visited India and had the following words to say: “Indians seemed very unhygienic by nature. They defecate in open, they don’t wash hands before eating food, they wash themselves in the same water as buffaloes. No wonder the mortality rate is so high in India. I was even afraid to touch the food there.”  I wanted to argue with her that it’s not so everywhere, that only villages and rural areas have such problem, when she told me that “she was visiting Bangalore.”  There was nothing I could say to it.

So I ask you people today. Are we truly unhygienic?

1) People defecate in open here. I’m not sharing any statistics here but just what I’ve seen.

2) Washing hands is not that much of a practice. My father never used to wash his hands before cooking or after using the toilet. When in school we(me and my brother) were taught the importance of washing hands, we forced him to change with our constant reminders. We put our foot down that we won’t eat unless he washed his hands. He changed, but there must be many people like him. So I’d agree to that as well.

3) The water many people drink is not clean. It’s not even boiled, forget about UV and RO treatment. I remember we used to have handpumps in our street and the some health commissioners came to check whether the water was potable or not. They didn’t take even a single sip from those handpumps, just painted them red declaring them unsuitable for drinking. Their words were “if we started testing the water of all pumps by drinking, we’ll be in hospital tomorrow.” That was the water which all the workers from the road drank.

4) Bathing in dirty water— I have seen people bathing in Yamuna and drinking that water as well. We were there for some religious ceremony and the priest asked us to do the same. We refused, obviously. But then what about those people who bathe daily in such filthy water?

5) Then there’s the kitchen— our own kitchen, hotels’ kitchen, banquet’s kitchen. Half the time the food is left uncovered as a feast for flies and mosquitoes. Other half of the time, it’s covered with any spare cloth, which is so dirty that it becomes more dangerous than those mosquitoes and flies. Have you been at the place when the food is being prepared for a marriage party? The place stank so much that one cannot pass without covering one’s nose.

6) Toilets— I’m a female and I haven’t seen any toilets anywhere. I recently watched a youtube video about a girl trying to pee in public. It was kind of a social experiment. But she couldn’t find any toilets. Then there are homes which don’t even have toilets.

7) Menstrual Hygiene: I can write an essay on this whole topic and the dogma associated with it. The women use rags — the kind which they won’t even use to wipe the floor with.

8) Overflowing garbage and littered streets: I don’t even know how many times I’ve been laughed upon by my friends because of my habit of picking discarded banana peels from the road and depositing them in garbage bins. My reason is more about the pedestrians who walk and slip(my mother slipped and was in bed for a month!) because of it. But then it does indicate the situation we’re in.

This is not an exhaustive list, but just the things I’ve seen and suffered personally. I have always lived in Delhi-NCR which is the capital of India. It is supposed to be a gem, but then this is the harsh reality of the city. We truly are unhygienic.

If “Cleanliness is next to Godliness”, then why the number of temples exceed number of toilets? I can hear my father telling me: “What can we do? This is the problem of the country.” But a journey starts with first step. Let us take initiative from our end. Let us keep our homes and lives clean. Let us help others understand the importance of hygiene and sanitation. Let us make ourselves and our family healthier. After all health is wealth. It won’t take much. Just few little changes in the lifestyle like wash your hands after defecation and before cooking and eating, boil the drinking water, build and use toilets, stop littering on the road, keep the food covered with clean clothes.

Recently, Amitabh Bachhan, in Dettol NDTV “Banega Swach India” Campaign said:

“There are a few causes that I feel very strongly about like saving the tiger, eradicating polio and TB. Sanitation has been on my mind for a very long time and when the opportunity presented itself, I had to be a part of this movement,” Amitabh told reporters Thursday.

“If my face and voice helps this cause, I will be honoured. I hope that like we successfully achieved success with polio eradication I hope we will be able to be successful with this campaign as well,” said the superstar, who has been the Goodwill Ambassador for the Polio UNICEF campaign and the disease has been eradicated from the country.

(source:  Indian Express,  Sep 26,2014: Amitabh Bachchan to campaign to keep India clean)

When he can take steps to bring the change in country, can’t we join the hands with him?

This post is written for joint drive of Dettol India, NDTV and Indiblogger Team under Banega Swachh India  with link

1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Santosh
    Dec 30, 2014 @ 14:56:10

    Saying that we are unhygienic by nature would be unfair. However, I can safely say that our traditional practices and culture did not evolve with respect to changing environment and resources. And, now we are at the point where we need very comprehensive interventions at different level to reach a decent level of hygiene.


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