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Oh, we're the cleanest

Much heartburn after an Aussie points out that India's a 'shit hole'. So it's not? KumKum Dasgupta writes.

india Updated: Aug 02, 2011 22:55 IST
KumKum Dasgupta
KumKum Dasgupta
Hindustan Times

The Ganga is the cleanest river in the world. Mumbai does not have slums. And Delhi is the politest city in the universe. Unless you are one of those 'Mera Bharat Mahan' t-shirt-wearing types (only statements, not action) who believe that the Golden Age of India is never-ending and the country is in an eternal state of spiritual bliss, you will obviously argue otherwise.

So I can't quite understand why some Indians — and non-resident Indians — are hyperventilating over a comment made by a radio jockey in Sydney, Australia.

Here is the non-story in a nutshell: Radio station host Kyle Sandilands, whose salary I am sure is proportionate to the listenership he can get on the radio station, tried an old trick on Monday to increase his station's listenership. During a show he was hosting, Sandilands called India a "shit hole" and the Ganga a "junkyard". And then all hell broke lose.

But other than the language being harsh and unparliamentary (well, not that he was in Parliament), did he say anything wrong? Oh, I get it. He should have said: 'India's rating is 5.5 on the cleanliness metre, and the Ganga, the beautiful free-flowing river, should have been a little more azure in colour.' It's always a bit more acceptable if you sanitise the way you say things, isn't it?

But the bland truth is, no matter what we think of ourselves, outsiders will always remind us about our shortcomings, as they see it — and as they are. Just like we manage to notice their shortcomings. It's kind of a never-ending quid pro quo game. So let's stop cribbing and learn to play it or change the situation.

But we will do neither. We will still throw junk into our rivers, spit on the road and urinate in public places, but will continue to wear that 'Mera Bharat Man' cap with denial as a feather stuck in it.

Let's be honest. India — or, at least, large swathes of it — are downright filthy and we don't seem to mind one bit. Two days ago, this paper reported that a certain part of 'shiny', 'Commonwealth Gamed' New Delhi is getting cola-coloured water in their taps. So when the reporter brought the issue to the fore, the Delhi Jal Board 'sprung' into action and repaired the rusty pipeline, also providing us with an interesting bit of statistics: of the 642 pipelines, 635 are yet to be fixed. Yup. All is fine in this country!

And then there is the Great Indian dream of cleaning the Ganga. Like taking the civil services exam, this is a national obsession and the government and the public are joint owners of this dream of a pristine Ganga. But this dream does not deter so many of us from throwing plastic packets and muck into the river.

But then how can dreams be dreams without money? So we have several multi-crore Ganga (in)action plans that started in 1985. For cities, we have urban 'renewable' missions. So do tell me, what are we renewing when we never fixed anything in the first place?

So please let's not behave like spoilt children and throw tantrums every time some outsider points out our scabs. Let's accept that there are lot of things wrong here that need fixing. Including the hordes of ostriches that bury their heads in picture postcard-perfect Incredible India.

First Published: Aug 02, 2011 22:53 IST