Where Does All the Shit Go?

Have you ever wondered as to where does all the shit really really go?
I'm not here to answer that question but to share an amusing story that my mom happened to mention when we were discussing this confusticating question.
Caution: Shit alert. Don't tell me I didn't warn you. You'd prefer not to be eating anything while reading this.

Now, you may be wondering how the heck we ended up even discussing this? Here's the prelude: So, we have these really stinky full-of-filth and garbage nallah(s) [Don't go by the original definition. Here for the city folks it means- Run as far from it as possible] running all across in the city(Mumbai in case you are wondering). Nallahs have always been quite intriguing for me [I even ended up with a group project in 1st yr based on it ha!] I think it's very unfair the way they are treated. On the one hand they are the lifelines for the city and ya- the slums lining them (just like the early civilisations coming up near rivers eh?) and on the other, they never really were meant to become filthy gutters! They originally were rivulets of fresh water-In fact they begin their journey from the mountains too all fresh and sparkling! It's tragic that they end up as gutters into the oceans. Ironically, it's us only who dirty it, dumping garbage and sewage into it and then complain like silly dumb asses that it's so filthy. BIGGEST CRINGE at this ignorant immature behaviour that worsens the condition by making the nullah feel ugly while it actually is born and meant to be beautiful!
What if we chose to take responsibility to maintain that pure fresh state of the river and be careful not to overload it with more than it can naturally take? Wouldn't the city be more vibrant and paradisical?

As usual I can't help but compare the tragedy of the nallah with that of people.
We were all born into this world all fresh and sparkling. As the journey continues, we throw garbage at each other and poison each other with filth and then like silly ignorant and immature dumb asses complain and cringe at each other's filthy state and worsen the condition. We make each other feel ugly to hide our own faults while in actuality we all are innately beautiful! What a sickening irony.
What if we chose to take responsibility to help maintain that innately pure state we all are meant to be and were sensitive and careful not to overload each other with more than we can naturally take? Wouldn't the world be more vibrant and paradisical?

Anyway, I needed to know how shit was managed before- who better than dear mommy with experience from the previous generation? (Oh I must say, her life has been so full of adventure-lots n lots of amazing stories and still digging. You could chat up with the elders in your family to glimpse the treasures they have gleaned- Nothing better than sharing the real-life experiences of inspiration and wonder!)

Here, I'll give you an idea of the setting, so you can imagine the scene and the characters as to where they come from:

So, our native is Kutch, pretty much a desert but a wonderful place in Gujarat; taking baby steps into 'development' thanks to the 2001 Earthquake that brought the spotlight there. (Gotta do something-Can't let it make the same mistakes being made everywhere-that'll be a lifetime study and work I guess)
My mom grew up in a humble family in Anjar, a town in a time when for them, electricity was a luxury. There is this system of phariyas (areas) in Kutch; each with its own set of community facilities and idiosyncracies. She along with her grandma, parents, 3 brothers and 2 sisters lived in the Gandhi phariya in a rented deli [a typology of a house with a wooden gate in a high wall along the street that opens into an angna(courtyard-open space) with the rooms at the back.] Guess the rent? Per month, twas Re. 1 in her grandma's time, increased to Rs. 6 and then Rs. 9 over time and finally her elder brother increased it to Rs. 20 when the landlady was widowed- She had three sons to take care of after all and by that time they were better off.

There were 40 houses in this phariya and she said there were only about 6-7 families who weren't that well-off, they being one of them. Her dad rolled bidis each day for a job and also made yummy chikis occasionally which my mom used to go selling that included amusing incidents of either cows or naughty boys making it difficult for her, leaving her fuming and cursing. Her mom and her elder sister used to do house-cleaning work for a few better-off families, with my mom managing the household while earning a few bucks at another house too. Oh and the girls in the phariya all used to gather in the evenings and separate cotton from the pods, carrying the material back and forth on their heads from faraway places. You should see the glow on her face when she is recalling her childhood days so full of fun and carefree spirit in spite of not being financially well-off, as she likes pointing out every time she gets an opportunity. You should listen to how she talks with pride shining in her eyes about how the girls got together and managed the festivals and kept fasts and organised Navaratri in their phariya with her even pitching in to sing occasionally! She earned her own money and her dad also gave a little each day for spending apart from getting some goodies(sweets or chocolates or snacks) each evening for the family. She loved buying bangles and clothes for herself- She is quite girly(unlike me) and loved dressing up and shopping for herself, and still does!

Now, they didn't have an attached toilet like most of the other houses. She says they had these open-to-sky areas for the community called vaadaas set out for No. 2 (alright defecating); where the shit exposed to the glaring sunlight just dried up and was cleared away regularly by the bhangiyaanis (a caste treated as untouchables that did all the cleaning- It's unfair that they are considered untouchables, they do the most important task, don't they?). Their phariya had a vaadaa for the ladies. Some other one far away had one for gents. When she was about 6-7 years old, water pipeline supply came into the town and to the homes that could afford the cost of installation. My mom said they too wanted to get the supply home when they were better off, thanks to the elder brother taking charge but the landlady wouldn't allow. Anyway they left that place much later. Until the pipeline arrived, the ladies filled water from the taps constructed at certain places far away that drew water from wells- It was a common sight (and still is in the interiors) of ladies with matkas on their heads and hips walking great distances for water. Oh and they washed their clothes at the lake.

With the water supply, in time came the drainage facility too. The vaadaas now had these toilet structures built- individual and common; with 2-3 steps leading up to the cubicle at a higher level with a box beneath that acted like a septic tank with a door so the bhangiyaanis could clear it away regularly. There was a big tank too covered carelessly with iron sheets, that gathered the waste from the common areas. Mom said these places used to stink a lot because the ladies carried only enough water with them and barely did they bother or even have enough water to wash down the loos properly. No wonder- contrast this horrible condition with the natural drying up of faeces exposed to Sun. Thankfully for her as she grew up, she went to Shanta Fui's house for the necessary rituals. (Shanta Fui has 9 sons and 1 daughter, who is a good friend of my mom) She's not really her Fui (as one calls ones dad's sister) but called her so as she was very patronizing towards my mom. My mom makes it a point to visit her each time we go there.

All set; now I'll tell you the amusing story I mentioned in the beginning in case you forgot.

So, there was this girl, daughter of a well-off family and this is her story. Once there was a big wedding in their phariya and that day, she with a friend went to the vaadaa since her house was far and God knows how (brace yourself!) fell into that big tank of poop (Ewwwww) Yes...the one with the iron shutters carelessly covering the top. While her friend ran for help, she sank deeper into shit with only her hand showing in all the shit. Thankfully, one lady from the harijan caste (another caste considered to be the untouchables by some) saw that hand popping out and pulled her out of that shit. Phew! Her mom arrived and washed her off profusely and the girl was taken to the hospital just in time as the doctor declared her safely alive and well. I hope that lady who pulled her out was in some way recognized or rewarded for this kind feat. I hope this even shone a light on the hypocritical irony of the concept of untouchability. (I'd recommend you to read Untouchable by Mulk Raj Anand, an important book set in the time of Independence.)

Now(this is my favorite part) guess what her mom told her after she returned from the whole ordeal? She told her that she must have done some sins that she had to actually go through hell in life itself! (Actually she was known to be quite haughty especially the way she treated other girls and never failed to throw taunts at my mom.) Now, which mother would have the presence of mind (or even guts?) to say such a thing to her own daughter after she went through such a mess? It seems that after the incident, the girl literally transformed and changed her ways. In fact she and my mom became good friends too!

One thing is for sure,
If there is a hell, it is right here
If there is a heaven, it is right here
If there is a paradise, it can be right here.
What do you choose for yourself?
And are you ready to take responsibility for that choice-
Are you willing to do your bit for the vision You hold?

Are You Willing?

Somewhere in there,
Everyone has dreams.
Everyone has a vision.

What is your vision?
What are your dreams?

And you know what?
The least and the most that you can do is:
Watch yourself.
Everything else will fall in place.

Are you willing to see the Magic you are immersed in?
The Magic that you are made up of?

You become what you imagine
You become what you dream
You become what you think

What do you wish to become?

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