For the past few days, I've been walking in a playground nearby. It's a small municipal ground, completely barren. Kids from the nearby slums play there by the day and keep it mostly clean of garbage because that's their only ground. From the looks of it, the local gamblers and drunkards take over in the night, but every day I see that yesterday's bottles and cards have been cleared.
I also realised that lot of passing car drivers use the ground for urinating even though several warnings are painted on the walls. People urinate right below the warnings with impunity. It's not for a lack of choice though. You can't blame the government for it. There's a well maintained Sulabh complex just 50 mtrs from the ground.
At first I ignored the urinating men and walked around. Anybody who knows me, knows that I'm very cynical about my countrymen. I'm of the opinion that there's no hope for this shit hole. But people are urinating right below the boards and I couldn't stay away for too long. Today, I started telling people about the Sulabh down the road and requesting them to go there instead. People were mostly surprised when I stopped and asked them if they wanted to use the toilet. Most of them got embarrassed and walked away. Some argued a bit. "I've been urinating here every day!"is a common response. I told them about the kids who pick garbage every day and requested them to keep it clean. People obliged and it gave me hope.
I'm not a Swachh Bharat volunteer. I'm just a man who saw something wrong and decided to put aside my cynicism to tell people to do it right. While walking, I pondered about how people obliged readily and thought, well, they just need someone to tell them and most people will do the right thing.
It's not like nobody is telling them. The new government is making a lot of noise about cleanliness and toilets. There are Modi posters on the same wall talking about Swachh Bharat. There's a massive Sulabh toilet in the neighbourhood. Govt is building 15 million toilets in the country and movie stars are campaigning for the movement. Still, people need face-to-face convincing to move away from old habits. I was elated that I got involved for a brief moment.
Towards the end of my walk, I stopped a man with a look on his face like he wanted to take a leak. He protested like a few others. I kept him engaged with various arguments. He kept coming up with excuses to urinate there. 'I live in the neighbourhood', 'I do this every day', 'Sulabh is too far', 'I need to go urgently'. I kept countering him. He stood his ground. I finally put an end to it by raising the stakes. I told him, 'You look like a reasonable, educated man. I'll leave it to you to decide. I told you what I have to. It's up to you now. You do what you think is right' and I waked away.
He exercised his choice and urinated on the ground.
I'm not going to stop telling people about the Sulabh because of one man. But, I'll probably remain cynical.