The Nirmal Bharat Yatra

was a sanitation & hygiene awareness & behavior change campaign conceptualized & implemented by WASH United & Quicksand. It travelled 2,000 kms across rural parts of 5 Indian states between 2nd October 2012 & 19th November 2012.

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Reflections on poop

My first week in India as a Great WASH Yatra fellow has been defined most of all not by life-changing cultural experiences, great adventures, or even jet lag, but simply by poop. I have spent the better part of my time so far coping with a bout of bowel-bursting diarrhea; racing to find functioning bathrooms and anything that might pass as toilet paper.

At one point, while squatting over yet another toilet to avoid touching the fermenting fecal remnants adorning the seat (and dreading what would happen if the four remaining hotel napkins in my pocket weren't enough), I had a vision. I saw myself free, pooping in fresh, green fields like I had seen so many local people do. The burning pain in my quads and suffocating heat and stench of the stall around me began to fade away as I let myself drift into this fantasy. But then I had to stop and wonder: why was I putting myself through all this just to use a toilet? Why would I ever choose this nightmare bathroom over open defecation out in the fresh, comparatively clean outdoors? I realized that the answer lies in my knowledge of the consequences; of not washing hands after defecation, fecal matter in drinking water sources, etc. Basically the bulk of the educational mission of the Yatra.

I suppose that for me, this experience has been a fitting introduction to the sanitation crisis the Yatra aims to build awareness around. Sanitation here is a complex problem, but my own brush with the defecation dilemma that hundreds of millions face every day has helped make clear to me the importance of clean, functional toilets and sanitation education.


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