Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Story of a Toilet!






“Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.” …John F. Kennedy

John Fitzgerald Kennedy, commonly known as Jack Kennedy or by his initials JFK, was an American politician who served as the 35th President of the United States from January 1961 until his assassination in November 1963. At age 43, he was the youngest man to have been elected to the office, the second-youngest president (after Theodore Roosevelt), and the first person born in the 20th century to serve as president. To date, Kennedy has been the only Roman Catholic president and the only president to have won a Pulitzer Prize. No need to introduce more JFK probably the most popular US President till date & most controversial too. But it’s his above quote has been a historic & inspiring one; as we often forget that when we expect something from a system named Govt or country then we also are supposed to give back to the system! Real eye opening quote indeed! The purpose I remembered this quote is a small activity we started a year back has been now considered as path breaking & living to the words of JFK. I am referring to adoption of a public lavatory which we undertook a year back in Pune.

Let me admit I myself didn’t think it’s something great or it will pull so much of attention from media or even by the system including local body & rulers but sometimes things just happens. It’s a small step by a small company with some good intentions to make the surrounding which we call the society a better place, that’s all! To those who don’t know the background here is a bit past tense or let’s say flash back…
Nearly one & half year back when I wasn’t playing my routine badminton in mornings due to my shoulder injury, I used to walk to Vaishali to join my friends over cup of tea. And on the walk from my home to Vaishali at FC road, I used to cross a place nal stop chowk at karve road. It’s here a public lavatory was situated which was in real bad condition , structure wise & use wise also; it used to stink & the stench was so bad that you can’t even walk past it so I used to cross the road near that lavatory & complete my walk. And in traffic hours to cross the road in front of that lavatory was a real hassle. Even the residents around had complained to PMC to remove that lavatory as it was nusscence than use! So one day I thought of doing something about it & contacted few friends in PMC is local body & asked why the lavatory is in so bad shape? As expected replies were no funds, insufficient man power types; so I said what if I maintain it? Sure they must have thought I am mad or joking, but when I said I am serious then seeing my determination the concerned officers said I will have to give application saying so as never any such thing has been done by any private person or institute; I meant no one has requested such weird thing to adopt a public toilet on his own out of nothing! 

Immediately from my office I gave my proposal that I will maintain it & without any consideration in any form, not even advertising on the toilet! And at that time I wasn’t sure what & how I was going to do it, so I had a small meeting with few of my colleagues who thought it as one more new fad of their boss but agreed as boss is boss! We worked out that we can makeover the present condition of the lavatory & the best way is keep a full time janitor there as to start with that seemed only logical solution to keep the poor thing in shape! But after giving such application nearly for three months there was no communication from the PMC authority & my crossing or road continued near the lavatory but the thought of maintaining it got stronger with each day!

Then one day in a function I came across Sandeep Khardekar & MP, Vandana Chavan & over informal talks the issue of civic sense came up & I told them about my application regarding the lavatory & how no replay is there from PMC. To my surprise both of them immediately got in action & in a day I got call from Vandana didi to come at Municipal Commissioner of PMC regarding the subject. There things moved fast with intervention from MP level & I got a letter from Mr. Suresh Jagtap, Dy Comm of Solid Waste, saying we can maintain the lavatory on our own but strictly no advertisement as well periodical checking from the health inspector at PMC ward level will be there. We got in contact with Madhuri Sahstrabudhhe who is local elected member of the ward & she assured all help. When we went to inspect actual condition of the lavatory one more hurdle popped up; there was no water connection! I told to Madhuri madam that I can get a small tank but from where I can get water as to use daily tanker will be impossible job. Over this she said she will arrange water connection & she did arrange in a weeks’ time. So now most of the things were in place & civil work wasn’t a big thing for us as being in construction industry by our self. So including initial touchups like tiling, painting to plumbing & having a small sintex water tank, all was in place within fifteen days.

One more thing, the surrounding small open space around the lavatory which I thought should be needed to be utilized properly as it was a dumping yard for all sort of garbage i.e. from liquor bottles to what not! So we thought of making a flower bed in it & again we got permission from Jagtap sir as well Madhuri madam. We planted flowering plants like “Ratrani’, so its fragrance would help in making the surrounding better & it does worked. Then we started for looking a janitor who will be willing to do a job which isn’t much lucrative as well he would have face to the public which may not be friendly. And we did get it in the form of a college dropout but fit boy Sushil & a salary of ten thousand is agreed upon. We explained him the job & provided him all the cleaning material as well a little bit of training were given. It’s decided that after every twenty minutes he will clean/wash the urinals as well instruct people using that to keep it clean & not misuse the same for wrong purposes. This bought up another problem as why the people would listen to him? So we put a small board at the toilet with permission of authorities saying the toilet is under maintenance of Sanjeevani & displayed mobile numbers of two of our staff members for any assistance regarding lavatory condition. We put some decorative planters around the lavatory & the entire look got changed.

This all took nearly four & half months from the date I applied to PMC for adoption as this sounds proper word than maintained; & exactly on 28th Jan 14 we started officially with a cozy get-together at venue in presence of all the concerned. We didn’t made it public as we thought let it run firs & let’s see are we able to deliver what we have committed! We also kept a remark book there which at first people find weird as at what kind of public lavatory janitor asks you to fill the remark book as, “how you feel about using it?” But there were good remarks about the condition of the place as well about our efforts & our confidence increased! Time fly & suddenly in second week of January 15, I realized its nearly one year & I called Sandeep Khardekar, who said why not celebrate its birthday? And as on 28th Jan 15, all were there again including Hon Mayor of Pune city Mr. Dattaji Dhankawade & MLA Medha Kulkarni, off course Vandana didi & Madhuri madam with Suresh Jagtap too were present. Shop keepers around the place as well residents expressed their feelings that how it was a big disturbance & now it’s a best utility in the locality & I think that’s was the real receipt of the work. Its decided that this pattern will be made public & make more people/companies to come forward & follow the path. My friends Vikrant Vartak & aditya javdeakr who has already doing it with a women’s lavatory joined in. It costs Rs 15,000/month to maintain this one set up is what we have calculated inclusive of all expenses & I am sure that much many of us can afford! And needless to say the money will make the janitor boy to complete his education which is added bonus!

Friends I am not sharing this to advertise something unique we have done; all we did is just as it come to our mind & we could do it because we listened to our inner call. It’s said that kitchen of a home tells you the culture of that home; similarly public toilets of any city tells you culture of that city & now let’s ask our self what’s culture of our city? We call our self “Oxford of East” or “Cultural Capitol of the State” & look at our public toilets; it’s a shame to all of us the conditions most of them are in! And when any outsider is visiting our city & uses the public toilet, if at all he dares to use one, then what kind of opinion he will be making about our city? Many of us has traveled abroad & wondered about cleanliness over there, have we ever thought who keeps public places over there clean; it’s nobody else but the public itself! After all what is public but we all who are living here! Why we should be depending upon Govt for everything when we our self also can contribute? If some day our house keeper guy doesn’t turn up then do we wait till Govt comes & clean our home? Same way the roads, the toilets, the gardens or any public places are our own & we can surely give a try to make them a better place. Also see the employment it will generate & there are nearly eight hundred such public toilets in the Pune city only & still the numbers are insufficient is a fact! We spend for so many things including birth day parties to marriages & what not, mostly to show off what wealth we have but some where we have forgot to spend for society of which we too are part! And it’s not only maintaining the toilet but we can have even signages around in the neighboring locality mentioning way boards to the public toilets. So more people will come to know about it & instead making the surrounding dirty they will come to the place to use the facility! Here a small expectation from the rulers or local bodies is they should promote such concepts so as their own work load will get reduced. Let’s remember that any system is for making common man’s life better & if the common man himself is getting involved in process then what more we need!

Lastly this may be story of just one toilet but it can become story of every public toilet; as it’s said that however long any journey may be but it starts with only one step in the forward direction & nobody but our own self prevents us from taking that step! Instead of cursing the system lets become the system as that’s what will makes us a society or else we will end up as just bunch of brainless animals killing our own future; choice is ours only what we become!


--
Sanjay Deshpande

Sanjeevani Dev.

Please do visit my blogs to know about our philosophy at Sanjeevani ! (Click the links below)

http://visonoflife.blogspot.in/2014/01/wanted-leader-for-real-estate-industry_8.html


http://jivnachadrushtikon.blogspot.in/

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