Walking on the streets of Mumbai, I have stuffed a hand-kerchief to my nose and hurried past defecating children who looked up at me, their innocent faces, not deserving any of my disgust. From the window of a local train, I averted my eyes when I saw men squatting beside railway lines relieving themselves. I observed, sometimes in just plain disgust the one crumbling communal toilet at the very center of a convoluted maze of slums where a line of people with tattered, leaky plastic buckets stood patiently.
Stuck in a traffic jam, I let my mind wander and imagined how scary it must be for these people and their children to crouch in such a toilet with no electricity in the dead of the night, the fear of vicious stray dogs, drug addicts, lurking child molesters looming over their heads. What did they do when they had diarrhea or when a woman or a teenage girl had her period, I wondered.
I was selfish. I was sickened by the thought that when monsoons arrived, I would likely be walking in knee-high water that had dissolved all the muck. Flies and mosquitoes thrive on this filth and bring bouts of malaria and gastroenteritis during the monsoons. And all this stagnates in the middle of our nation’s commercial capital. We fear terrorist attacks and riots but have the makings of an epidemic growing in front of our very eyes.