dirty mind, clean hands

i was out for a smoke, on yet another one of those routine breaks while at work when i saw him at the street corner. they’re mostly always reeking of alcohol. its not common to find people getting drunk and going to work, but thats how it works for them.

‘it makes it easier for us to down a couple of shots and then get to work’, he tells me. ‘otherwise sometimes the stench is unbearable. its like this – we can’t possibly do this job when we’re sober’. talk about occupational hazards. his black skin had lines of sweat glistening against the scorching summer sun. he was stripped down to his underpants, smoking a beedi. i am not sure which odour is more pervasive, that of his alcohol laden breath or that which emantes from the open manhole next to which he is standing.

there are a hundred questions running in my mind. we’ve supposed to have evolved as a civilization, but, i ask myself why men are still condemned to such menial jobs. surely there must be another way out?

impulsively, i extend my hand out to him.

‘my hands are dirty, sir’, he tells me.

dirty hands can be washed off with soap. what do i do with my dirty mind, i ask myself again. the voices in the head!

‘it’s ok’, i tell him, and we shake hands. he has this quizzical look on his face, for i don’t think people otherwise talk to him. ‘my family always complains to me that i am stinking, even after i’ve had a thorough bath and cleaned up and all that’, he tells me with a forlorn expression. ‘my children are even ashamed of me. after all, what would they tell their friends in school when they are asked what their father does?’

there is a pregnant pause, and it seems to last forever, a period in which i had neither the conscience and courage to look at him, nor could i look away.

‘thank you’, i told him on impulse, ‘you clean up our dirt. we owe a lot to you, for it is you who ensures cleanliness for us’

‘it’s my job sir’, he retorts before quickly plunging into the hole again, ‘the monsoons will arrive and we have to make sure the drains are free of any blockages’


46 thoughts on “dirty mind, clean hands

  1. I presume that the men who do this horrible job are among the lowest paid? He should still be proud, for he can feed his family and he does a truly useful job for the benefit of everyone.

  2. thank YOU for shaking his hand and treating him with dignity. Now if 2 billion other folks could think like you – the world would be a different place.xxpinks

  3. am glad u shook his hand and talked to him DB = ) honestly i dont know if i had the guts, i probably would just give him a big wide smile, cos i havent come across a person with such an occupation yet not here nor back home. but thanks for the entry, makes me ponder, think and re-evaluate some perspective.

  4. Touching. The helplessness with which we look on at such workers undermines the empathy which we would like to show to them.

  5. That you shook his hand my dear dearman – is the touch of friendship -that you took the time to thank him was warm and I just love your heart.I love this world and everyone in it.it does not matter what we do – how we dress -deep down we are each and every one of us thesame. We all love and long to be loved.(hugs)

  6. i dont know what to say, it takes a lot to get even with such people. It just shows how good/pure you are. I am glad i bumped into your page…And i see pondichery..I lub that placeyou’ll see me here often..:)keep writing and keep cleaning the dirt outta our minds :)Sharanya

  7. People like them go out of their way literally to clean the mess that others create without complaining – while we sit there on our high stools and complain after creating the mess. Surely there is no dignity for labour.

  8. ASH,thanks. wasn’t meant to be poignant, it just turned out like that.Z,they are paid very less, yes, but i am not sure how many people can actually appreciate their role and feel that way.ADITI,thank you so much my dear friend! and yes, its good to be back :)PINK,the world would in no way be different. we have to see what we can do in it, with it, as it is now.ZEUS,impressive? in what way, may i know?MUSH,thank you – a constant re-evaluation of our perspectives may actually be a very good idea.

  9. TRINNIE,that line was written with the dharmabum in mind. :)D,very true.SOPHIE,u r vert generous. and u r rare – to love the way u do, is indeed a blessing.warm hugs to u.MUNNA BHAI,yes, actually, thats true.CHITRA,clean on the outside, yes, but don’t dare look deeper. oh, and sometimes, i amaze myself :)KESHI,am glad!SUNRISE,:) long time no see?

  10. ~ME,welcome to this space.glad to have bumped into u too 🙂 pondicherry is quite lovable, yes. don’t live there anymore, but i got a permanent holiday spot, as my parents are settled there :)will be glad to see you more often – you are most welcome!SIVA,thanks :)JOLVIN,absolutely, i think we should start thinking and trying to create less mess, in the first place. what do u say?KIWINDIAN,thank you.NANDITHA,it doesnt’ reflect anything na. i wrote a random experience, thats all.SUGARLIPS,good to be back. warmest hugs to the two of you :)JUBIN,yes, i was angry too. but whats the point in anger – more often than not, it is futile.

  11. u knw dharma i feel the same way as z does. this man is out there working to provide a decent meal for his family and i am gald he has no taken an easy way out…

  12. I was just thinking that the writing was impressive. Unlike most others who felt for the man who cleaned the gutters and your empathy for his situation. I was impressed by the fact that your words shook me up after days and weeks and months of apathy.Maybe I am shallow…Maybe I am missing the point…But that was the first thing that came to my mind, so I blurted “Whoa! Impressive!”I know I am stupid…just put up with me ok?

  13. FTT FTB,cleaning the sewers of our minds – such a wonderful thought. long way to go for us bums, but yes, an attempt can and will be made.welcome to this space and keep coming by – your comments are indeed valuable.HDWK,i posted it, thats all my dear friend. i’m not sure about others’ minds and how dirty they are – i only judge myself, coz i only know myself :)DEEPTHI,absolutely. its a tought choice, but some people make it and stick to it.JOLVIN,:)ARTI,thanks and glad to see you here.PHISH,thank you. u like me, or u like the post? coz i can come across as very different at different times ;)ZEUS,u’re a sweetheart. never mind if its a stupid one. we all are, in our own ways.u haven’t missed the point at all my dear friend. i am glad the post shook you up. arise and onward!

  14. dirty hands can be washed off with soap. what do i do with my dirty mind- very good observationEveryone has their role to play, and every role is important, and I think only through understanding it and showing the respect to each and every job, like the way u showed only, all these inequalities and illusion could be eliminated.

  15. Nice post. I have seen these people in action. While I was curious enough to see how they work in such a bad and stinking condition, there were others who walked 20 feet away to avoid it and then there were others who unknowingly went close to the drain and were cursing these people to be insane to work there and spoil the area with rubbish removed from drains.

  16. I’m embarrassed to think that honestly i wouldnt have had the courage to do shake his hand…we speak of equality and dignity of labour…its good to see atleast someone taking a step to live by those ideals….and thanks for visiting my blog…

  17. SHUZ,thank you.SHRUTI,not sure what we ‘should’ do, but theres a lot we could do. thanks :)DIVSU,thanks!NISHA,welcome to this space. yes, it is sad but true. sometimes i think there is no limit to how insensitive people can be.NANDITHA,why help and all? its easy na…:p thanks, and likewise!ANITYA,its a self observation!couldn’t have said it better – it is indeed important that we realise that we all have our roles to play and we hope to play them well.3SC,yes, its ridiculous, but i have observed that too. it is us who is responsible for all the muck that accumulates in the drains. and we go and curse those poor souls who clean them.VITRUVIAN,i wasn’t living by any ideals or anything. i’m far from all that. i did it on impulse, thats all.keep dropping by 🙂

  18. The same thoughts keep coming in my mind too from time to time. But is there something that really can be done ? It’s something we see, think about, and move on…But the nice part was you shaking hands with him. It would’ve made him smile thinking that some people are still out there who recognize them for what they do.Great work.

  19. IWBM,glad to have u here.yes, i get thinking about it quite often, just like you do. and then there is this question – can something be done? well, not much, if you ask me, but thinking that way gets me quite depressed, and so i keep conning myself to believe that something can indeed be done – like saying hello to this guy, or even making an attempt not to contribute to clogged drains :)cheers!

  20. hmmmmi know u dont like poetry much, but i do like prose and whatever uwrite, i feel it is written by me, or if wud have been writing these, i wud have been writing like u :)thanks for the wordslove

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