30 October 2010

On cleaning a toilet

“Nahi, nahi, chinta ki kya baat hai? Main kar dunga, koi pareshani nahi hogi…”

Cleaning a toilet is one of the most liberating experiences ever. It’s a dirty job, yes, but nonetheless an ordeal out of which one emerges cleaner in more than one sense.

Obviously, my Dadi doesn’t share these sentiments. Cleaning toilets is for the low caste: achuts, Dalits and SCs. Even if not, even then it’s for the maidservants or, at the very least, for the sarkari jamadar – not, certainly not, for her dear pampered grandson.

Yet, there was no one else to do it and so the lot fell on these shoulders. Why not too? What is in cleaning a toilet?

Something poignant as I see it.

Disgusting and filthy, yes, but poignant still, reflective of the unacknowledged labour of numberless multitudes who worked behind scenes to make those scenes what they are, presentable thus – does not history rest on the shoulders of those who lived and died in poop, pee and puke? A historic act? Certainly…

“Arre kahan phas gaye beta! Rehne do, ek haath maar ke hi aa jao...pote se aisa kaam karvana parh raha hai…”

“Mein theek hun Dadi.”

“Theek toh tum ho hi, par bas ab nibta ke aa jao. Aao aur nahao…”

But history still isn’t without the stigma of pollution, ne? What, what but a string of fables commonly agreed upon? History, indeed; the weight of history rather, imagined as much as real – more imagined perhaps than real. To clean a toilet? Pollution, inescapable pollution! Caste redeems, yes, but then such a caste too! An outcast caste, half here and half there: still, history weighs us down.

“Dadi, mann mein ek khayal aaya hai, kuch vachan dimaag mein ghum rahe hain.”

“Kaise vachan? Kam hua? Jaldi aao bhai!”

“Haan, haan…par sochiye, Gandhiji ne bhi toh aisa hi kuch kaha, kiya tha! Vaishnav jan toh ten ere kahiye, peer parai jaani re…”

Vaishnav Jan, Harijan. Harijan? Really? We who have the leisure to think, to consider our position in a wider order and the forces which bind that order, we make ourselves Harijans. Who else out of his/her own volition would be so? Still, in doing so, in such fashioning, one is that, one is so: peer parai jaani re…shit unites, shit holds what naught else can: everything said and done, we all carry shit within ourselves…


“Kya hua?”

“Honthon se chu lo toh, mera geet amar kar do: ek boond andar se chapak kar mere honthon ko chum gayi.”

“Hair ram, yeh larka! Bas ho gaya, aa jao! Hai ram!”

Whatever it might be, a job well done does give satisfaction. A toilet restored to its showroom shine does lighten the heart, bring a tune to the lips. Thank goodness for Harpic and the like too, for along with something noble cleaning the toilet is now also a sacred chore, a contributor to health and hygiene and the GDP in totality.

“Haan, kaam toh accha hi kiya hai tumne. Shahbash! Nahi, nahi, mujhe mat chuhiyo abhi! Ja naha ke aa, phir, phir!”

“Arre, toilet hi toh saaf kiya hai!”

“Haan, bas, toilet saaf kiya hai!”


Creation said...

There are two in my house that require your services. Bataiye.. kab ayenge aap?

AP said...

Jab aap bulain!