Being a person who loves it clean, very clean, clean in a way that you should be basically be able to eat from the ground it seemed to be an absurd idea to travel India or even choose it for the personal summer internship destination. Month ahead I only heard “And do you really think that it is the country you want to go to? You sure?”; not only from parents also from the rest of the family and friends. But my personal answer was clear “Yes I wanted to and yes I knew it will be a totally different world”. Regarding culture, gender equality, weather, landscapes, but also in terms of hygiene and cleanliness.
Typical documentaries show India as a place where waste just flies around. No one cares. No one thinks it is of his or her business. But was like that in reality? I wanted to find out.I came to research the environmental impact of the garment industry. Not too far from my idea of cleanliness and very high standards of hygiene. I am very disappointed about the garment industry and big companies negatively impacting the environment of thousands of people and consequently impacting their health. So I wanted to observe and find out more about the management of these businesses and how they treat their waste.
But for now let us get back to me and my obsession of being clean and living in a clean environment; leaving the airport doors at the 31st of May and stepping in the real Indian world was a big step for me. To see and finally smell the huge amount of waste being more or less everywhere definitely feels different than just watching it in TV. It smells. In some areas it smells a lot. My first destination was Naddi, a small place at the food of the Himalayas, a place for higher casted Indians to go on holidays and at the same time EduCARE’s headquarter. Since it is a touristic place it supposed to be clean and beautiful. The latter is surely the case but with the cleanliness… I don’t know... Definitely not my standards and quick I realized in what troubles I put myself in - This place being called clean? I didn’t even want to know how the rest of the country looks like if this supposed to be clean. Welcome to the mind of a cleanaholic.
When I arrived in Paro, a small village in Punjab, which is my final destination for my internship, I started to clean up the intern house and to prepare “my corner” - I cleaned, cleaned and cleaned and bought a small shelf and hangers for my cosmetics before I actually found some rest from the travel. Eight hours from North to a little bit more South. Eight hours of seeing more of eye-catching India and also eighthours of seeing more waste; on the streets, in the lakes and rivers, on the fields, next to the houses. The next day a carpet to put my luggage on followed so that it is doesn’t get dusty; my suitcase spent the first night on the collection of mattresses. A proper mosquito net was the cherry on the cake. As a cleanaholic you always find something to do or improve, you are never bored.
Other interns mostly make fun of me. Finally, it all comes back to the question “Why did you choose India if you hate dirt?” I only have to say it isn’t impossible to enjoy India and my time here just because there is this one thing (even though it is a bigger thing) I don’t really like. People need to be more open-minded and tolerant with other people’s lifestyles. Judging someone just because he/she came here even though not liking dirt is unfortunate. I do love cleanliness and so do I accept India and it’s uniqueness.
So now you might see the reason why I later on decided to be also part of a colleagues project trying to develop and implement a waste system for a smaller community. Doesn’t everyone say you should make your passion to your job? So will I and I am curious of what the next month brings. Not only cleaning, that’s for sure. There are many things to do and to explore - With toilet paper and wet towels or without.
Awa Sall - Germany
SWASH Project Manager - Punjab
SWASH Project Manager - Punjab