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Dirty India?

trash.JPG
Since so many people have commented on my unique perspectives (5 people), I will throw this one out as I believe it is one of the main negative perceptions people have of India. Dirty India. Or the belief that India is one big garbage heap which breeds smells, disease, and totally unsanitary lifestyles. Now this is actually not something I came up with because I actually didn’t really understand it as well.

First, I will have to say that this issue is not something confined to India. I saw it in South America, Africa, the Middle East, and hell, there are pockets of it everywhere.

Second, as I stated before, I didn’t quite understand it myself, but one day I was glancing through one of India’s English newspapers, and I saw an article about how India placed in half of the top ten dirtiest city polls but yet the culture is based on cleanliness. This article was written by an Indian, so that is why the culture information. I am sure as a foreigner, it would have stated it as “duh, everybody knows that.” Well, the above is kind of my way of saying, “if any of this is wrong, blame it on the other writer.”

Okay, lets dive right in. I can’t speak for everybody, but in the Western societies, if you say “India, cleanliness on a scale of 1-10,” I am sure it would rank in the lower three’s to two’s. Say the same thing with Africa, South America, Central America, and Canada, the answer probably wouldn’t be too far off. That’s right I said Canada. Of course, most of this poll would be answered by people who hadn’t been there as most people have their own perspectives based on the media without having first hand knowledge. I would have to say though, the average tourist would actually say the same thing so in this case, sorry India, Africa, South America, not Canada. Having actually visited these places, I do have to say that the places that I and the majority of other tourists have visited, there definitely is an issue with trash.

So, India is a filthy place. Well, yes and no. Yes, when you go outside and walk around, there is pretty much a high visibility of trash. So the answer is yes? No. This is where the yo-yoing comes into play. If you just look at the trashy areas, that’s what you are going to see, but if you look at the other areas that are clean, they won’t be trashy. “Steve, you’re an idiot.” Now, wait. Let me clarify and also go back to that article I read and the part about the clean culture. The people are taught and believe that cleanliness is next to Godliness (that’s a saying, I know, but I am not sure from what religion, but it applies.) All the prior countries I have been, it is one eyeful of people cleaning, from sun up to sun down. Without filling up a page of examples, I will revert to the furthermost scale, and you can fill in the middle. There is an Indian, African, Latino, etc. living in a mud hut with a dirt floor. You know what happens probably five times a day? They sweep their floor. That’s right, they sweep their dirt floor, scoop up the debris and loose dirt and shoosh it away. A dirt floor. That my friend is not following a logical point of view, but what it does do is follow the context of “cleanliness is next to godliness.” The majority of people have the same standards of cleanliness. Clothes cleaning is another one. Find any water source at any time of the day, and you will have some matriarch of the family out there pounding clothes into oblivion. Again, another extreme example. Out in the sticks where water is very minimal. There are usually little, what I would call a mud/slime pond. I personally wouldn’t even clean the bottoms of my shoes with the stuff, but someone will be out there as well pounding the dirt out of their clothes because “cleanliness is next to Godliness.”

The Indian clean culture can easily be explained, (now that I have read the article.) The belief is that all those excretions that your body performs, is basically a vile and detestful subject. Were talking, sweat, snot, poop, pee, blood (menstruation), body odor, and I am guessing ear wax. For the rest of us, I would have to rate it all as being at the level as human shit. I think we see the rest of the stuff as slightly less evil, but to the Indians, it is all equivalent to human shit. Back when I was staying in Arambol, Goa at that little guesthouse, they had a seasonal helper there who was kind of like the fixer guy. Well, every morning he would come at 9am, and use our restrooms. My little $2 dollar cubicle room was this little addition right next to the bathrooms. There was no wall all the way to the ceiling, so the wall just ended about head high plus a foot. I could hear every little squeek coming out of those rooms. Well, every morning, he would come in and make these disgusting lung, throat, loogie compartment, cleansing, hacking, gagging, vomiting sounds. At first I thought he drank his first bottle of Tequila or something, but it really grossed me out (I do not gross out so easily.) Every morning it was the same thing. I thought perhaps he had a cold and was trying to force it out of himself. It got to the point where I was up and out of my room by 8:30am every morning just because I didn’t want to hear it. Well, once I read the article, I finally understood. The flem/mucous/loogie thing falls under the context of devils work like I stated before. Hacking up a loogie in Indian public would be equivalent to letting loose a juicy fart during a funeral. For this reason, people will spend a few minutes gagging themselves to make sure their whole throat/lungs/ esophagus, etc. is totally free and clear before they start their day. The same goes for the eating with the right hand thing and never ever touching anything that is to be eaten with your left (remember poo cleaning hand.) The same even goes with blowing your nose. Kleenex or not, you don’t do it indoors and especially not at the dinner table. Women are also affected specifically as during times of menstruation, they are banned from using communal water areas and temples. So basically, excretions=bad. Now, I am not sure about the man excretions ie. Porn shots, but I will assume that it is frowned upon at the dinner table as well.

The same kind of mentality can also be carried over to the household. In the Indian household, the kitchen is ground zero and is kept next to godliness. I also commented about the clothes cleaning as well as keeping the grounds clean. So, if the Indians are so clean, why is their country such a garbage pit. Well, that’s the other part of the Indian mentality. Once you get out of the above guidelines, stuff doesn’t matter. The rules don’t apply. Remember how I was saying how the people would sweep up their dirt floors. Well, once they have their little trash pile, they will pick it up walk to the edge of the house or to the street, and drop the trash on the ground. Same with the trash and waste that is removed from the house, on the ground in the street or in some corner of the neighborhood. The belief being that those areas don’t matter. Your home matters, but outside of that, its fine to have trash stacked to your neck. And that is why my friends, you see a lot of trash but you don’t understand how it can be such a clean society. As tourists, we actually don’t get a chance to see into the every day life. Sure we see tourist places and mocked up areas, but in reality they are nothing of what real life is. If you spent most of your time in an Indian household, you would probably think they are some sort of clean freaks. Also, while walking around, it is infuriating to watch as locals unwrap their whatever, and just throw their wrapper on the ground. Again, it’s being dropped where it’s supposed to be, the not in the home or business area. You wouldn’t see that wrapper being dropped in someone’s home or business as those areas are to be kept next to godliness. You get it now. Pretty cool huh.

Sure, there are other fairly significant reasons such as minimal waste management resources, dynamic manufacturing growth, the refuse is food for animals, low caste people will have a chance to pick through the trash for anything of value, low education about the environment, and of course some people who know better but just are lazy, but in the general context of a society, that is why India is so dirty, but is a super clean culture.

Any 6th-8th graders who want to plagiarize this and use it as their own, go right ahead. I guarantee at least a C+/B.



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71 responses to “Dirty India?”

  1. SG says:

    Very interesting. I am an Indian and yes for Godsakes India is filthy. Accepting that doesn’t make me unpatriotic. I see arguments here going in different directions and mostly Indians are hitting back blindly blaming the British, getting defensive, etc etc.
    I used to think this is a great country, etc etc but its all a delusion. It is not. We Indians don’t know how to behave in public. We litter around. We take piss in the public. When we drive we don’t stop a give way to people crossing, especially when women and children are crossing we will drive as though we are going to run over them, and honk and scare them. We are not considerate of anyone else. Get into an airplane and see how we keep our baggage in the overhead bin. We will keep our things at the very center, Fuck others if they can’t find space.
    We are one nation that thinks we are superpower,intellectual etc. Whatever was there in this great country of ours are all gone thanks to all of us and we are only sticking on to some false pride. If we are honest to ourselves we can see a lot of truth in what the tourists from outside India has to say. We are one selfish, insecure, dirty and nasty people and accepting that is the first step towards any redemption. No point in blindly hitting back at people when they say your shirt is dirty. Look at it, put it for wash.

  2. Roark says:

    I agree on all the commets about Indi being filthy. It pains to read these comments but most of them are true. If as Indians we do not take feedback positively it is at our own peril. We cannot forever live on past glories.

    Let us start in what ever small way we can and make every person we meet aware of this and then take the authorities to task.
    If the filth is out, and that includes politicians, there will be no country as beautiful.

    Yes, we love our country and feel the pain it goes through but then we ourselves have to make it, not better, but the best..

  3. rashish curry says:

    I am Indian and I hate it. My parents make me eat shit every day. I roll around with dead people in the communal bath. I shit in the bath when I have to. It’s fun! I like rubbing shit all over myself. You know why we have dots on our heads? It’s where the aliens suck our brains out!

  4. rashish curry says:

    fuck you and your goddamn moderation. I hope you publish my previous comments. they’re relly important!

  5. Andrew says:

    My recent trip around the world ended in India and my experience reinforces much of what is said on this blog. Although I think many comments are too aggressive and some are simply racist, I see the fact is that India has a shameful lack of civil responsibility. In short it id not civilised. 
    I think the nation has to move on from being haunted from the ghosts left by the British occupation. Few will defend that type of foreign policy now, but at the end of the day there were some positives that came from it. The country was given exceptional industrial and technological know how that the Indians should have built on. Yet 65 years later there are the same cars and trains! Come on stop blaming the imperialists and start taking control. Hold your politicians to account, create social awareness for the environment, the disabled, and the disadvantaged. In short create civic society!!
    Many regions have successfully moved on from the psychological and cultural damage of occupation – so India can do and it’s time you stop blaming others. 
    India will never succeed until it begins to address poverty and filth, and invests in infrastructure and technology. 
    A century ago you were left with a state of the art railway, administration, trading – the sub continent’s development leap frogged it’s neighbours. Yet what happened?
    China and Asia have left India behind – whilst India struggles to figure out how to deal with rubbish collection and sanitation your neighbours are building the future… and you passively allow leaders to siphon off much India’s wealth   

  6. Rajiv says:

    It was not like this in the past. I am from the state of Rajasthan in India and it was not under direct British Rule. The communication and forign affairs were however were dealt by the British.
    In my view the lack of discipline and total absence of punishment has worsen the conditions. My great-grandfather told me once that during the rule of the Hindu King there was a fine of 4 rupees on anyone who used to throw garbage on road. If you adjust the amount for Time-value of money it will come like 250 rupees of present. Big amount in terms of Indian money. Due to this the people were motivated/forced to keep their cities clean. But after the Kings left the fear of goverment was also gone and slowly people started doing what they thought was right.
    So the problem is lack of discipline and absence of punishment – in my view.

  7. Praveen says:

    The Problem is India’s population which is rising like anything. The Indian government too is the biggest culprit which thinks that its billion plus population is its greatest resource.
    They seriously need to change this attitude and thinking which is creating a lot of problems for this largest democracy. A vast section of India’s population is illiterate and lives below the poverty line. These people can never contribute to the development of the country as they never send their children to school, are simply not ready to accept family planning measures, they contribute to the pollution of rivers and environment and multiply like viruses and bacteria. The poor of this country are lured by the city life and they migrate to the cities in search of better living conditions and means of livelihoods and end up living in slums. These slums are the biggest contributors to the increasing crime rates in the cities. You will find slums in almost all the major cities of India, even in modern cities like Pune and Bangalore which are famous in the west for their comparatively western life style and living conditions. These days the slums are more prominent features of these cities instead of places of historical and religious interests. The movies like “Slumdog Millionaire” have best depicted the present conditions of slums in Mumbai. This is interesting to note that this movie was not well received by some intellectuals in India because it did not depict Mumbai in good light. LOL, I don’t know what did they wanted them to show ? The divide between the rich and poor in this country is so strikingly wide. This disparity between the two has only increased as the days progressed. People like Ambanis, Tatas and Birlas are known for their lavish spending. Mukesh Ambani gifted an AirBus 319 to his wife in a country where majority of its people have not even seen an airplane. He is making the most costly personal residential Building for his family in a city where most poor are living in homes made of asbestos and plastic sheets without any proper sanitation. The traffic is horrible, road full of potholes, people and stray animals. The law and order of the cities and police are worse in their job as it has reflected in the recent attack on the city of Mumbai by terrorist organizations. Instead of hanging people like Ajmal Kasab and Afjal Guruh , the so called masterminds behind this attacks, they are enjoying the Indian Hospitality. The government of India spent Rs. 350 million to keep this asshole alive and healthy.

    The Educated and the elite are least interested as they are busy in their own lives and careers. Their biggest pastime is blaming the politicians for their problems. The Politicians are busy stashing their homes and Swiss Accounts with looted money. In fact they have looted more than what British and Portuguese did in their 200 year old rule. They create deliberate loop holes in every system so that they can fill their pockets. The top officials in the government have been accused of major scams involving billions or rupees but have never been convicted. The problem is the Indian Political system is full of people who are extremely corrupt and in fact some of them have not even received basic education and and are holding important positions.

    The Educational systems enroll only a small percentage of the population. The colleges for Higher studies have reservations based on castes instead of Merit. The Indian education system sucks a lot as thousands of students commit suicide because they cannot cope with the pressure.

    Most of the highly educated youth prefer working in Western countries as they would hardly find the suitable jobs in their own country.

    All these problems are mainly due to the rising population of the country. The Educated and the newer generation to some extent are working to eradicate these problems.

    But , I doubt if India can overcome these problems if it doesn’t do anything to control its rising population. As we can take the case of China which introduced the one child norm in order to control its rising population . Drastic steps need to be taken and these should be implemented as soon as possible. There is a tendency in the vast majority of the Indian population to oppose such changes , therefore the government should not hesitate in implementing these forcefully.

  8. jignesh patel says:

    You christain dogs will never learn that Is why we are kill the gay carpentar worshippers in india ! Jai sri ram !

  9. Parth Kohli says:

    I like your article. I must say that you didn’t be racist and were nice.

    Okay, stuck to the point now. First of all, I came back from Dubai last night. It was my first trip out of India. I’m 12(Not an adult). So, what I thought was this country needed a lot more awareness. What I saw there was that throwing a tissue on the public street had a fine of about 3000 Dirhams(which equals about 36,000 rupees). In India, even if you throw something in front of a cop, they do nothing. In fact, they throw things too.

    Basically, I just want the Indian Democracy to be more for the people. The politicians have wasted a lot of money. We need severe punishments. Thought, we have a great economy and people really want to settle in India. Except the fact that India is filthy and poor. But, to be honest. India is not that bad. We are great people.

    Okay, I never throw things on the ground. Even when I was in India, I never used to throw things out. What I always do is that I always keep things in my pocket or in one bag which I have kept for trash. And, I suggest the Indians to do the same. If the government is not concerned, you guys make it happen!

  10. Hi,
    i loved this article but i an idian for that i really fell very bad for this article.

  11. doug fister says:

    You’re such a shitty writer. Your story barely made sense.

  12. SGisRIGHT! says:

    SG, as a fellow Indian who is now living in USA, I totally agree with you! And with the author of this article as well. Indian people are lazy, and selfish as in they don’t give a shit about others. So many times I have had people stop when I was crossing the road, etc but NOT in India and they sit around in their circle sipping tea and gossiping about Americans. They say how Americans are nasty because they kiss their dog on the mouth while spitting their paan on the street and laughing… What a bunch of hypocrites.

  13. SGisRIGHT! says:

    This might be drastic and even shunned but when Britishers were ruling India, they gave Indians an education system, government, railroads and other means of mass transportation, automobiles, sanitation and when they left– look what Indians did to India. In my opinion, Indians should get off their lazy butt and start thinking about both themselves AND their neighbors but majority of the time people are too busy being selfish to care about others. So sad. =(

  14. Mark says:

    I have also wondered about the role of the “untouchables.” It seems like along with the mentality that “the house should be kept very clean, and everything else doesn’t matter,” there is also a mentality, especially among the wealthier classes, that “worrying about trash is something I am above.” In the train stations and on the streets you see the lowest caste people walking around picking up glass and different forms of trash and putting it in bags.

    The problem would be that you have an antiquated mindset adapted to living in villages from long ago, that would now run into trouble with huge population growth and large, dense cities.

    Someone please tell me if this might be on the right track.

  15. Quora says:

    Why is India so dirty?…

    A couple good answers/thoughts: Dirty India?http://www.steveislost.com/blog/dirty-india.html

  16. Xerces says:

    Spot on. The 3 largest slums in Asia all come from Mumbai. You can check it out on Google. Also, The Times of India carried a news article about it. 60% of mumbai lives in a slum. 60%. Wow. The main thing that causes filth is the residents’ attitude. They do not have any sense civil manners and public behaviour. You can see CEO’s and Managers spitting in public and blowing their noses in crowded local trains. Businessmen are no better and they often scratch their balls and asses in public and spit in public. Almost everyone litters and throws stuff on the road. This problem is more acute in cities, especially Mumbai. The high slum population is the real lifeline of Mumbai and the film Slumdog Millionare has shown this facet of Mumbai life very accurately. You can see child labourers and beggars in Mumbai. The children are sold by their parents from poorer parts of India like UP/Bihar and they work in Zari shops in Mumbai. The media has often shown this but nothing has ever come out of it. The fact is that people are not interested in keeping public places clean because they have never seen anyone doing it nor have they ever been told to do so. But most importantly, they have an attitude that just because its not their home or business, its ok to litter,spit,piss,shit,blow your nose. Well, ultimately, they have to live in their own shit and no one is going to clean up for them. So the more they throw their shit on the roads, they have walk thorugh dirty,flithy shit themselves. And going by the peoples’ attitude towards public cleanliness, it really looks like its going to stay that way.

  17. aditi says:

    Though I’m an Indian i completely agree that unfortunately we are too lenient with ourselves. Wish we could all stand up, face reality and take charge of what’s wrong in our country, instead of simply defending our faults and criticizing others. People definitely lack a sense of responsibility and self discipline here. May be we’re too many of us… may be we’re just not evolved enough… whatever it is, for those who want change, its highly frustrating!

  18. Hari says:

    I’ve put a lot of thought on this and I believe the core reason for all of India’s troubles is a shift to a centralized government. Although it is beneficial in terms of scale it has caused many problems in terms of accountability of the Government. We all know who the prime minister is but we don’t know about who the mayor is. The mayors or those in charge at a district level are in control of the state ministers who are in control of the central government in most cases. So if my road is dirty I just don’t know who to ask to fix it! Most people think voting or being active in politics is immaterial as they feel powerless against large parties that rule the whole country. They expect the ‘government’ to fix it and in reality there is no one government for you. People don’t take responsibility of their localities and ask why the ‘Government’ isn’t doing anything. This just has left behind a hierarchical system with no one taking responsibility and a lot of corrupt people who manage to hide in the bureaucracy.

    What we need is the power and the money at the smallest levels. The district for example. Then people of THAT district become responsible for it and hence are active and show much more civic sense. The taxes they pay is for their benefit and doesn’t get siphoned out and in the process pay for corruption.

    The negative of this is that some regions will develop and others may remain backward. Also there is the danger of inefficiency due to repetition. But here is where modern technology advancements with respect to communication can fix the problem. With people talking to each other, they can easily and instantly see what others are doing. Hence districts can try out something new and those that succeed become benchmarks for others to beat or at least imitate. Corruption on the other hand gets limited and is not allowed to grow into a nationwide problem.

    This bottom up approach coupled with good communication is already there in western countries. They have always given much more importance to states than center. Champions of liberty like Ron Paul in the US are currently fighting to preserve this tradition of America. Now with the mobile and internet explosion in India, we are at least as connected with each other as the developed countries were in the past. If only we can wrest the power from the center back to the people..

  19. suraj says:

    Cool article but the picture and the content is just not in sync….we all agree about the filth in india etc etc etc…..whatever you have written in the content about keeping house clean and less enviornmental knowledge please highlight your crux….i find your thoughts very intersting

  20. yashoda says:

    stop blaming on India. i agree with all of your comments but you are all Indians and we are all young and we should keep it clean if we scold India , India wont become clean and every one starts to hate India and Indians , do you need that be and clean india and you should clean your hearts too.

  21. yashoda says:

    stop blaming on India. i agree with all of your comments but you are all Indians and we are all young and we should keep it clean if we scold India , India wont become clean and every one starts to hate India and Indians , do you need that keep india clean and you should clean your hearts too. sorry for beaing so rood at all of you.

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