Posts Tagged 'shit'

Remembering Ishwarbhai Patel

Ishwarbhai Patel

Ishwarbhai Patel was the role model to my role models. Today, on the first anniversary of his death, we remember him fondly.

In a country where ritual hygiene is sacrosanct and actual hygiene is observed mostly in the breach, Ishwarbhai devoted his life to the rational, hygienic management of human waste. Recipient of India’s Padma Shri for distinguished service to the country, among many other national and international awards, Ishwarbhai’s greatness and achievements were certainly widely admired. But, true to his modesty and good humor, he got more pleasure from his more humble nickname, “Mr. Toilet”.

Ishwarbhai was as matter-of-fact as could be about all matters of human waste. Within the first five minutes of the first time we met, he advised me how much my average daily dump weighed in grams – I forget the number – and added that it was likely more dense than the average Indian feces, because the Western diet includes more refined and processed foods. This was typical conversation, and there was nothing casual about it. It was part of Ishwarbhai’s mission. Having made sanitation his life’s work, he could hardly afford to be abashed in discussing these things. Moreover, he understood that the polite refusal of most people to talk about human waste entailed a pernicious complicity in the epidemic of debilitating and frequently lethal diarrheal diseases in India. “How can we solve a problem people are too embarrassed to talk about sensibly?” he complained.

Continue reading ‘Remembering Ishwarbhai Patel’

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The Shit of the Saintly is Still Reeking

Garbage on the River Ganga (Ganges)

The Kumbh Mela, the world’s largest religious festival, has just rounded its halfway point in Parag, near Allahabad, Uttar Pradesh. Occurring roughly every three years, the Mela coincides with certain astrological events, and lasts approximately eight weeks. This year’s festivities, will be attended by an estimated eight million people, including the traditional quorum of spiritual poseurs, religious exhibitionists, and voyeurs. Only the most uncritically relativistic, everything-is-beautiful-in-its-own-way, intellectually blinkered observers could possibly see the Kumbh Mela as anything other than a spiritual freak show, notwithstanding the devout piety of the rank-and-file superstitious who also attend.

The rather poor 2005 film, Kumbh Mela, depicted a small slice of the brainlessness of the event. My evidence for the spiritual vacuity of the Kumbh Mela and its participants, however, is drawn from today’s Times of India headline, “Heaps of Garbage Lie Unattended in Mela Area.”

Continue reading ‘The Shit of the Saintly is Still Reeking’

Varanasi: Shit-Hole of the Gods

Ghats on the Gnaga, Varanasi

I’m posting this from the tarmac of the airport in Delhi (I no more enjoy calling it “Indira Gandhi International Airport” than I would willingly refer to National Airport in Washington, D.C. “Ronald Reagan Airport”), on my way to the 7th Annual International AIDS Conference. India is playing host to this year’s gathering of leading scientists, doctors, and NGOs working on the HIV/AIDS epidemic, and the venue for the conference is Varanasi.

I am looking forward to the conference, at which I will be representing an innovative biotechnology project that provides unique sample preservation tools to enable the diagnosing HIV infection through analysis of DNA. Still, I am dreading being back in Varanasi. Rather than recount my reasons, let me attach the text of an email I sent following my previous visit in 2002.
Continue reading ‘Varanasi: Shit-Hole of the Gods’

Garbage. Shit!

Trash in the Pondicherry Canal

Fred Hsu, who has just returned to the states from India, raises an interesting issue on his blog today, when he wonders whether India will be able to “retain its rich culture” in the face of the sea of filth that its people wade through each day. It seems to me the Indian waste problem is as much a function of culture as an enemy of it.

The sad fact is: the overwhelming (OVERWHELMING!) majority of Indians are habituated to garbage in the streets, in parks — in any place that is not their private domain. No one seems to mind walking through it, and certainly none seem to give a second thought to contibuting to it.  Littering is an activity as common and casual as drawing breath.  There is an absolute disconnect here between compulsive personal hygiene and the utter lack of public hygiene. When Deepak Chopra declaims that, despite its rich, visible, and celebrated history, “India is not a spiritual country,” I think of this discrepancy as Exhibit A.
Continue reading ‘Garbage. Shit!’


Blasts from the Past

Man Up!
Man up you pussy!

... because the idiocy of manliness is an evergreen topic.

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Talking Turkey
how to cook a perfect turkey in half the time

... because Canada and the US will celebrate their Thanksgiving holidays and, regrettably and preventably, not 1-cook-in-10 will serve a decent turkey.

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Filial Piety Awareness Day
Kaki Tusler, Mother's Day Celebrant

... because everyday is Mother's Day.

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America Dreaming Small
American Dream

... because the American Dream seems but a distant memory, given the country's dominant ethos of small-mindedness.

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Serenity and Gratitude to Bring in the New Year
New Year's Eve at Tibetan Pavillion

... to remind us that not every mix of Tibetans and Western spiritual seekers has to be nauseating.

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Incredible Vision
Infinite Vision

... to celebrate the new edition of Infinite Vision published in India.

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Expelliarmus! Harry Potter and the Path to Gandhian Nonviolence
Expelliarmus, Potter, Gandhi, Nonviolence

... reprised because military strategy seems more cruel and less effective than ever -- and certainly there is a better way.

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India Going Nowhere Fast
Nano in Flames

... because cars are ruining Pondicherry, where I live. How badly are they fucking up your Indian town?

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Understanding the Gift Economy
Gift Economy Explained

... reprinted because more-and-more people seem want to understand the gift economy. (Yeah!)

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