Tuesday, May 19, 2015

The way to go

In the traditional Hindu marriages in India today, the bride is often offered and given gifts, by near relatives, friends and kin, consisting of domestic appliances, kitchenware etc. besides the traditional jewelery and sarees. These gifts may include things like a Television or Washing machine or a refrigerator or kitchenware like mixer/grinder. They are given usually as a sign of goodwill and to see that the new bride meets greatest change of her life with physical comforts of modern age.

In Maharashtra state of India, these gifts are usually arranged and displayed in one corner of the marriage hall, for all the marriage guests to see. The gift display is usually known as “Rukhawat.” A typical “Rukhawat” display would consist of utensils, embroidered linen ware, sweets, besides domestic appliances.

Surprisingly, the “Rukhawat” display at the marriage ceremony of an ordinary Maharashtrian village girl, Ms. Chaitali D Galakhe, from Andura village in Balapur tehsil , Akola district of Maharashtra, was so radically different, that the guests were 'oohing, aahing' after inspecting the display, inside out. According to Indian tradition and custom, Chaitrali's marriage was also fixed with Devendra Makhode from Yavatmal town, by her parents, a few weeks ago. She was quite happy with the match and was looking forward to her hew life. But then she discovered to her dismay, that her in-laws' home lacked a toilet and the family went in the open to attend their nature's call and was greatly alarmed at that. There was a proper toilet in her father's house and she shuddered at the idea of going out in the fields to attend to nature's calls.

She decided to take matters in her hand and went to her father with a demand. She told him; "I am not interested in any television, refrigerator or a washing machine or gold jewelery as a wedding gift. I only want a ready-made toilet which I can carry to my in-laws home." When she discussed this with her parents and her sisters, her father first just could not believe in what she was saying and thought that she was off her rocker and her demand was ridiculous. But later, as Chaitrali and her sisters discussed the whole issue, he saw the truth and was convinced. He decided to make his daughter happy by fulfilling her wishes.

He approached a local manufacturer and ordered a pre-fabricated toilet at the cost of Rs. 18000/- a substantial amount, comparable to the price of a refrigerator or a TV set or a washing machine. However, he and his daughter had a surprise in store. The toilet manufacturer casually asked the father about the reason of ordering the toilet and found out that it would go with the daughter as a gift. He decided to lower the price to only the basic cost of materials; Rs. 12000.00

After knowing about this strange gift, which Dilip Galakhe was giving to his daughter, he was ridiculed by the villagers as well as Chaitrali's in-laws. Yet the same prefabricated toilet, with a water closet, a wash-basin and mirror standing around one foot above the ground, in the “Rukhwat” display, became the most admired present of the lot and was the cynosure of all eyes at the event. As everyone around congratulated the shy bride and her happy groom, everyone including bride, bridegroom and their families kept on glancing at the strange “Rukhawat” gift.

Chiatrali was no doubt happy but the real big benefit of this strange gift has come in form of inspiration of the local girls, who attended the marriage ceremony. They were simply awed by Chaitrali's courage in making the demand and making everyone agree to it. Many of them have decided that they would follow Chaitrali and see that their in-laws would have proper toilets in their house before they would ever think of marrying in a family.

Sulabh International is an India-based social service organization that works to promote human rights, environmental sanitation, non-conventional sources of energy, waste management and social reforms through education. Over the years, Sulabh has developed safe and hygienic on-site human waste disposal technology and have built over 1.3 million toilets across India. They have even opened up a Museum of toilets for visitors. Sulabh's founder and Noted sanitation expert, Bindeshwar Pathak was so thrilled, when he heard Chaitrali's strange wedding gift, that he immediately announced a gift of Rs. 1 million to Chaitrali, calling her a great inspirer and messenger of sanitation. The cheque for Sulabh Sanitation award would be handed over to her in next few days.

In the past few years, Suklabh has similaraly awarded a few other women for doing great inspirational work in sanitation and Chaitrali now joins the ranks. With the award, she can buy whatever other gifts she wants to buy or save the money. It is her choice. It is a simple case of having your cake and eating it too.

Chaitrali has shown to other village girls a new, much wanted path towards personal hygiene, the way to go. Hats off to her.

19th May 2015

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