Wednesday, November 3, 2010

India: Land of 300 Million Gods - and No Toilets

Ok, so things aren't quite that bad in the country that's about 8000 miles to my east - but I think you'll agree they're bad enough if you happen to have read the same recent news story that I did.

Remember? It's the story that opened by informing its readers that there's a slum in Mumbai that doesn't have a single toilet or latrine for its 10,000 residents.

Apparently far more people over there have cell phones than have access to a urinal or commode.

Here are a few choice passages - just in case you're having trouble visualizing exactly what this means:

There were more than 670 million cell phone connections in India by the end of August, a number that has been growing by close to 20 million a month, according to government figures.

Yet U.N. figures show that only 366 million Indians have access to a private toilet or latrine, leaving 665 million to defecate in the open.

NOTE: There are about 307 million living in the US today.

Try to picture them all.

Now imagine if the US had more than twice as many people and a complete absence of bathrooms was prompting all of them to shit in our famous amber waves of grain instead of singing about them.

Scary, eh?

(If you shouted out "COOL!" instead as you read the above scenario, you're excused. Please go stand out in the hallway until your fever breaks.)

The story goes on to provide readers with some of the details of what all this means for the daily life of the average resident of India. If you're in the mood to read about children splashing in sewage or drinking from rain barrels spiced with little white worms, I encourage you to click on the link I provided above and do so.

As for me... I think I'll just sit here and continue to sadly shake my head as I think about how the Catholic Church continues to condemn birth control as a sin.

And about how so many Americans condemn government (with its "tyrannical" EPA and its "outrageous" public works projects) as evil.

And if I have any time left over, I'll probably be sadly shaking my head over these passages, too:

Businessman Mukesh Ambani, the world's fourth-richest person, is just finishing off a new $1 billion skyscraper-house in Mumbai with 27 floors and three helipads, touted as the most expensive home on earth. Yet farmers still live in shacks of mud and cow dung....

[A]s many as 800 million Indians still live on less than $2 a day, even as Mumbai's stock exchange sits near record highs....

It's amazing what a society can achieve when taxes are low, regulations are few, and government just gets out of the way, isn't it?

Maybe someday we'll have a Democratic Party with the balls to run a few campaign ads that highlight these stunning achievements.

In the meantime, I think I'll try to cure the insomnia this story has inspired in me by pondering yet again how Bill Gates could be using his fortune to buy himself a Senate seat or a governorship but instead has opted to adopt a global perspective and is using his fortune to combat malaria (among many other Very Bad Things).

After weeks of watching allegedly adult Americans trashing each other in an endless series of 30-second ads, it's mighty refreshing to know that there really are people out there who realize that the average mosquito net can do more to improve the lives of people than the greatest sound bite or stump speech ever written....


  1. That is just terrible, I can't imagine living like that. What makes people so willing to ignore the plights of others when there should be more than enough money for everyone? Not only that but thank all that is good for birth control, personally I think it should be compulsory for some people (think "octomom").

  2. What they don't tell you is how much rice and vegetables you can buy in India for two dollars.

  3. And I wish I had a house with two toilets. Spoiled American, eh? In Slumdog Millionaire, they had a scene with outhouses. I wish I hadn't remembered that scene now. Ick. But I digress. Do outhouses count as latrines? Either way it's still a lot of human waste close to a very large population. It definitely makes me appreciate my taxes.

  4. It occurred to me this week that I don't think I saw one campaign ad about non-Americans or foreign policy despite our relative wealth and great impact on the rest of the world. The whole campaign season now seems to have been even more self-centered than I realized....

  5. *Suddenly wondering if cheap food in a country without toilets might be a dictionary-worthy example of 'a mixed blessing'*

  6. Oh, and not that anyone should care, but... I saw Slumdog Millionaire and thought of that scene, too!

    Well, I should say I saw *part* of Slumdog.... After 30 minutes of watching one unpleasant scene after another, I'd had enough. It seemed to me as if the director was reveling in pulling the wings off flies. Did the flies end up triumphing in the end? I really don't care. I felt that the director was abusing me and I can't think of any ends that justifies that means.

  7. I had the same reaction to the first part of Slumdog Millionaire. I paused the DVD and went to my diary to ask people how they could watch such squalor and inhumanity for entertainment, yet assure me a movie about killing dolphins, The Cove, was too violent for them to endure.
    Nobody answered. Most seemed to have forgotten the squalor of the start due to the splendor of the ending.