Indian homes exhibit immaculate cleanliness. Even the poorest home in the slum, will have its mud floor swept daily, saris regularly washed and out on a line, and teeth – everyone has  pristine glistening white ivories.  All, apart from those who sleep on the streets, are the epitome of clean loveliness, an advert for mr sheen or mr muscle or colin the surface cleaner (it is true –  there is a surface cleaner called colin with the tag line it cleans it shines – hmm).


However, take a family portrait of one of these, lovely shiny, families out on the street and you would be hard pressed to find a backdrop that does not consist of a huge pile of rubbish and general crap.


No public space seems safe from this onslaught of household waste, festooned with its mandatory dogs, pigs, goats and the lowest caste bird, the crow. Children too vie for a piece of this culturally accepted domestic fly tipping…


Anthropologists put this down to the historical effect of the brahmins, the highest amongst the caste order. Brahmins can only be pure because the dalit, lowest order of caste, is polluted. A pure body is not to come in contact with impure substances; the pure avoid impure foods and impure people. In the West much effort is expended in masking the dirty inside, however in India it is directed to shifting the dirt outside. *


It is interesting to note  that the largest set of prohibitions in interactions between castes  have to do with food, and the first thing any caste trying to raise its status does it to publicly announce its uping the game in its food habits. *


Getting the crap out of the body is of such high importance to the Indians, nowhere else has such high sales in tongue scrapers,  small devices for removing the furry bit off the tongue. Every day I am awoken to the morning chorus of phlem being hacked up and expelled from the body by my many neighbours. Rickshaws have stickers proclaiming “Do not spit, it spreads TB” and yet spitting is commonplace.


The general ethos is: Get this crap out of my body and onto the street where it belongs. Shift this crap out of my house, it does not matter where, as long as it isn’t in my house and is not polluting me with its impurity.



·          Ref page 35, The Indians, a portrait of a people by Sudhir Kakar and Katharina Kakar


Note: Caste is not what it used to be in the good old days of the Raj, where the British Empire were laughing because it had a work force in place to do every possible job and nobody moaned because it was their place in life to do every possible job. But it still lingers in more subtle ways. I am sure I will find plenty of examples to question as this trip continues.


Remember “Use Colin, it cleans, it shines, it gets the crap  out of your house and raises your social pecking order”.