6th October, 05

The Editor,
Mid Day

Congratulations for the courage shown by you and Maxwell Pereira on his enlightening article 'No Dirty Hands, please'. He has also rightly called India as a large toilet. The first man to do so was V.S. Naipaul, who was criticized no end, which made him mellow and faint-heartedly he stopped being critical. I seriously think that we are the dirtiest in the whole world. A few months ago I was in Istanbul, and I found it such a pleasant sight. The Bosphorus and the bridges spanning Asia and Europe are an added attraction. Every road, every park, every taxi, every eating-house are spotlessly clean. In fact Turkey is one of the few countries in which cleanliness is considered a virtue and it finds mention in books.

It is normally perceived by us that Africa is not clean. But as an experienced traveller I can say that the whole of Africa with the exception of Nigeria is very clean. It is quite strange that the presence of so much religion in both India and Nigeria has done nothing to keep the countries tidy. In the late 1970s Victoria Island in Lagos was marvellous, but today most buildings are becoming dilapidated and the roads full of filth and debris.

South Africa is an entirely different story. Any visitor who has been along the famous 'Garden Route Tour' will testify to the fact that this 5-day trip is one of the most pleasurable and no filthy stretch meets the eye. Natural green forests and games parks are seen aplenty. The roads are so beautiful that going at 150 kph is no big deal. The resorts on the way add pleasure to the trip. In Pretoria on a Saturday afternoon I was standing in the balcony and what do I see- two young well-dressed boys are walking along on either sides of the street. On the shoulders of both are hanging white bags, and the boys are holding white sticks at the ends of which are spikes with which they were picking any paper or leaf or small rag, which may have remained on the road after the vacuum cleaning.

You must encourage such brave writings and help our country to come out of the dirt and filth, which so far we have perpetuated. Rivers in other countries are scenic and the banks littered with good eating houses, clubs and sports facilities. Our Yamuna in India can only shame us. We do not have a single river, which flows all the time – thanks to the continuous silting and the regular garbage.

Maxwell's examples of not cleaning our hands are very meaningful and should be taken seriously. Our dirty habits are the root causes of the innumerable sickness cases in our country. I cannot understand why anyone should be told to be clean. In Europe any child removing a chocolate wrapper will put it in his pocket. In India he will feel proud to litter the road. Spitting anywhere is yet one of our great habits. Singapore has on the spot heavy fines even for throwing a cigarette butt. We have many laws – but no enforcement.

R. Singh
37, Rajpur Road
Civil Lines,
Delhi-110 054.


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