Recently few friends of mine and I ( 4 of us) had to clean up an area near our chapel which was dumped with plastic food packets. One of the guys was a German who plunged in and started picking it with hands. Obviously the situation demanded immediate clearance( next day was Sunday and we had mass) and we were not prepared with gloves so the other two guys felt it awkward. For sometime they tried using a wooden board to move the boxes while the German friend and I were literally picking it by hand. Once the cleaning was over one of the guys told me( with reference to the title name evident) “I knew you were a social worker so all this is not new to you but I am surprised how a German cleaned this dirt he must not have seen such dirty places in his country”. And his final line was please don't blog this. I knew I would blog this then, to me it was something worth to be noted, shared. I don't know why they felt awkward but I disagree that social work education trains one to clean roads.
Well my friends who took up the course to land in foreign countries would puke reading this; after all they live selling their theories and principles of social work not cleaning streets and public toilets.
My involvement with NSS had some influence over why I chose Masters in Social Work. Unlike the students today who are forced to do it for a grade we were students who generally felt motivated to go for NSS and when you work in such a group it's an experience.
There's one such incident in a camp that touched me a lot and taught me who I was. It might sound sick to many of you - neither am I writing this to say I am Gandhi's follower. But when this guy told me I clean because I am a social worker I was recollecting this incident that happened at his age when I was doing my second year in B.A psychology.
I was the Voluntary Secretary and the only lady V.S of my camp. We have Xmas camps for ten days. It used to be fun cooking and living with bare necessities and interacting with villagers. But this time we had few students for the camp because some Xmas exams were postponed after reopening of college. But smaller the better we enjoyed the days.
One morning when I was in the Kitchen I was summoned by the girls. We were staying in a government school with very few useable bathrooms (one for boys and one for girls is the exact number). I went to the ladies toilet and found a long queue. At first I thought someone was stuck inside. But then in hushed voices an executive said (the core team has 3 Voluntary Secretaries and 6 executives) “Well someone dropped the mug into the closet and passed ________ #*$% now wat do we do? We can’t leave it like this, we can’t ask the guys to clean it, neither get someone from outside”?. It was useless asking who did it that was not important either. It was waste asking who will do the honour of cleaning if they were motivated they would. When it comes to cleaning a toilet irrespective of class, creed, gender we are all reluctant Kasturba Gandhi’s.
I looked at all the girls and asked if anyone would clean? At the very utterance a girl vomited and now guys were curious as to what is happening near the girl’s toilet. I asked the executive to get a plastic cover she stared at me. I still remember her getting a plastic cover which had the name “ Kairali puttu podi” with a Kathakali painting on it. I asked them to move – went in wearing the cover like a gloves with disinfectant in another hand lifted the mug, cleaned the toilet and came out, washed my hands with a disinfectant and walked to the kitchen. I saw girls staring at me with their mouths opened as if I discovered “Sputnik”. Some asked me you were brought up abroad how did you feel, how could you? People looked at me with admiration – oh god for cleaning shit after all.
Frankly but I am no Mother Teresa or Gandhi but I don’t think what I did was great I just know we had to do it to run the day and why we find it yuck talking about all these things shows how narrow mindedly we are brought up – talking about stomach upsets is L.S (low status) while having an indigestion is (H.S). Piles is (L.S)) but heart burn is (H.S). Talking about sex is (Oh my god) and so is toilet habits. Maybe its filth in mind that is on the streets, I am not appreciating the west but I guess where people speak it out, at least their surroundings look cleaner doesn’t it?
Hey just a perspective as usual some out of the world philosophy as Mike would say ….
No frankly I was just tracing why I say and do certain things and that day when I cleaned at chapel it reminded me of what made me do it.
And you know what many people could not eat that day at camp but I did and since many did not eat some of us got lots of fried fish to eat.