The Missing Basics

This blog is on a 3 day hiatus! Will be back soon! 🙂

Last Sunday, I was at Agra Cantt. Railway Station. My train was to arrive at 5.40 pm, and I was at the station at 4.30 pm!

The weather was sizzling hot and the wind was making it worse. My coach was supposed to come at a place which had no shade. So, went in search of a place to sit in the shaded part of the platform. Standing for a long time, coupled with sweltering heat, I was soon tired and exhausted. I heaved a sigh of relief when I managed to get a small space to sit on a already crowded bench!

The tired legs got a bit of rest, I did what I like doing the most…  observing! And what I observed was a sea of people sitting or lying down, everywhere on the platform.

The platform was so very dirty, with water and god knows what all liquid matter spilled and splattered at most places. Rubbish strewn all over. And the most striking thing was that people were oblivious to all this mess around them.

This child was drinking milk from the bottle, it fell from her hands, promptly it was picked up and the nipple was thrusted again in the baby’s mouth!DSC04784
This kid’s mother breast fed her, and in the process, the baby peed on the mother. The mother coolly brushed aside the susu from her sari with her hands, shifted her position and sat just a few millimetres away from the susu, and then spread the susu further away with her sandals, which was lying in a pool, close by! A few minutes later, she smelled her sari, made a face and that was it!
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Her husband got cucumbers which were sold nearby, and everybody relished the masala salad without giving a thought about washing hands! A few minutes later, they opened a plastic bag which had chapatis and a vegetable, and had their food. The kids were dropping their food on the platform and promptly picking it up and putting it in their mouths nonchalantly! And none of the elders said anything. In fact they constantly changed the position of their slippers/shoes which lay open near their luggage. While getting up, they would rest their hands on the ground for support…DSC04801
The cucumber seller was a big hit on this platform. I saw him coming and sitting nearby with a big basket which had some 25-30 peeled cucumbers, a plastic cold drink bottle which was filled with masala and a few newspapers. As soon as he set his temporary shop near me, he was surrounded by customers. He slit a cucumber into 4 pieces vertically and sprinkled the masala from the cold drink bottle and handed it to the waiting customer and charged Rs. 5 per cucumber. Nobody washed their hands or the cucumber! Then a cucumber fell from the basket, the seller, picked it up, wiped it clean with his hands and placed it back in the basket. At times, he would keep the masala bottle on the platform and at other times he would place it on the cucumbers!! And in flat 10 minutes, he was sold out. He went away only to return ten minutes later with a fresh basket of peeled cucumbers and the same chain of events followed!

These 2 elderly villagers smoked their beedis, had something to chew and would spit out near them, regularly!
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The people around me were from lower/middle class, and where ever I saw, people were so very oblivious to hygiene and cleanliness! Spitting or throwing anything, anywhere seems to be our birth right!  The toilet (the one I passed) was emanating such a stinking smell that it could act as a natural anaesthetic.

While, maintaining personal hygiene and cleanliness is everybody’s responsibility / duty / right… ! And one does not need money to be be clean and hygienic! It’s a basic thing! But, I guess, majority of the people do not subscribe to these views. For them, it’s like germs help build the immune system! May be it does!! Or is it that they just don’t know about the issues / diseases that could crop up because of living in unhygienic conditions!

This station had so many foreign tourists too, I wonder what would be their impression about us and our country! Having a mobile phone is everybody’s necessity now-a-days but hygiene and cleanliness is not!!
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21 thoughts on “The Missing Basics

  1. I’ve had the same thoughts on seeing un-hygienic people at places like stations.

    You’ve rightly put,it doesn’t take money to be hygienic but sobriety in thoughts!

    p.s. lol @ natural anesthesia 🙂 spot on!

  2. A typical train station scenario..they just came live in front of my eyes as you described them! How did people miss out on being hygienic. In which generation things changed? Certainly not in olden days. They were the ones who taught us cleanliness is next to godliness. And yes..foreigners who visit india does not carry a good impression. Most annoyingly, they generalize every indians! One of my colleague had visited India, and during one of our lunch sessions, she explained to others how untidy people are, in front of me. No matter how much ever I tried to defend my country, it seemed no use. It actually should’ve taken them few weeks / months of observation on me to decide that I’m not that very unhygienic!

  3. well…this is the picture of most of the railway stations and bus stands in our country known as “SHINING INDIA”…..i was reading a blog yesterday where it is written that road side shopwala was peeing in one of the utensils which he uses for making eatables….now imagine the standard of hygiene and our concern for it…..

  4. Well this subject of hygiene is like opening a can of worms! The lack of education of masses, and even basic manners among educated is the reason for filth everywhere:(

  5. I agree, personal hygiene is way below in our list of priorities. But, it is not only the poor who do this. Even in our strata of society, I find that people keep their houses but think nothing of littering public places, throwing plastic outside. I had an aunty who used to keep her dustbin out of the house 24X7. She said, “ghar ganda hota hai!” And, stray dogs had a feast.

  6. This problem really isnt of and by the middle class society.
    We in general lack civic sense.
    It could be due to lack of education,could be due to non availability of certain facilities.Dont forget,those you observed may also be from the familoies who slog the whole day to earn their next meal.
    Lady there feeding her child must the best moment of the day for her.
    How can one expect them to think of prsonal hygiene?

  7. There are only two class of people in the world and India is a vital example- The haves and the havenots!

    What you saw are the ubiquitous scenes in most North Indian towns. It is comparatively better down south.

    All this can be attributed to the lack of education, official and individual apathy and our culture too. Take for instance the town of Varanasi.

  8. How typical! I have been thinking about this too, but see our population, and see the resources. See our mindset about maintaining cleanliness and hygiene – we believe in keeping only our house clean and nothing else. I am guilty of this too. Though I don’t litter on most of the occasions, but at times mind becomes evil 🙁

  9. Euh! I m glad i dint faint. Have seen sort of these things but not so closely on any railway station i guess.. and yes because they haven’t yet bought literacy, they are not aware of hygiene. Somebody has to tell them the drawbacks, the implications. They have been living in such conditions forever, hence they dont care. (been a part of social work, I have been to some of impossible places)

    P.S. tourists come to see different classes, cultures of India… (no wonder slumdog millionair won award, when it was made by a non indian)

  10. Omg… this made me feel really *yuck*. Even I have always said that one needn’t have money to maintain hygiene. I see my own maid’s example, she’ll clean the bathrooms and not even bother to wash up or change her clothes after that unless made to do so. No wonder these folks keep falling sick.

  11. Shilpa,

    I am surprised that you survived and did not land up in hospital but again to think of it are many of hospitals as hygienic as needed. We all are culprits be it poor, middle class or rich. I have seen empty cold drink bottles or even beer glass bottles as well as empty packets of chips etc being thrown out of high end cars by lowering the window glass a little. Habit of personal as well as surrounding cleanliness needs to be inculcated from childhood by parents as well as teachers not only by sermons but by example too.

    Take care

  12. Well, Indians have the highest immunity … in the whole world and beyond 🙂

    So, just think how strong bird flu, etc have to be – in order to make their mark! 🙂

  13. Somehow such people dont get any serious health issues. I have seen many poor people carelessly handling the kids, unhygienic and carefree. But nothing happens!

  14. It’s been a while since I’ve been to a railway station. As disgusting as it may sound, it’s pretty much open for all to see, albeit, helplessly. The change should happen at the grass roots level or the gaping gap between the haves and have-nots, the literates and the illiterates, the hygiene conscious and the unhygienic and all else…would simple become wider, coexisting just the way it does now, if only worse.

  15. “Having a mobile phone is everybody’s necessity now-a-days but hygiene and cleanliness is not!!” You’re so right Shilpa! I think more than being aware of hygiene and cleanliness, its because they dont find it important enough to keep their surrounding clean and hygienic..they have become too complacent to even realize the mess around them!

    You have a good trip nonetheless! 🙂

  16. wow..quite an observation. I believe the things are same everywhere. Not many can be bothered with being clean. Sometimes even circumstances make them like that..so cannot blame them entirely. Lack of running water and basic amenities such as a toilet are a luxury for most people and so they never get a chance to think of other options..

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