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MY STRUGGLE FOR HEALTH AND ELEVATION THROUGH TOILET CIVILIZATION


CELEBRATING WORLD HEALTH DAY--2015


MY STRUGGLE FOR HEALTH AND ELEVATION THROUGH TOILET CIVILIZATION


 I write this memoir to join the world family in celebrating the WORLD HEALTH DAY today, the 7th April 2015. “CLEANLINESS IS NEXT TO GODLINESS.”  “Sanitation is more important than independence,” said Mahatma Gandhi. From health education and from my personal experience, I have learned that our toilets are the breeding places of several diseases. My day goes well if bowel is excreted fully and washing is done thoroughly after defecation in the morning. As a teacher in Bhutan for about three decades I always insisted this value of personal hygiene upon my students. Their practical response was overwhelming. As the matron, health in charge and teacher at Nangkor Higher Secondary School, Pemagatshel, Eastern  Bhutan, for eleven years, I felt highly rewarded to see our hostel girls carrying soap for washing while going to the toilets. Marvelled by the cleanliness
in and around the girls’ toilets, I used to say: “Daughters, I can even eat my meals in your superbly civilized toilets.” Thank God, our struggle bore fruits.

Toilet habits and hygiene I have considered crucially important throughout my life. Born and brought up in a crude environment, I used to defecate in the jungles and bushes nearby our house. When I was in Class VI, my intuition spoke to me that we need to have a civilized way for defecation. Accordingly, a pit latrine was constructed for our family use at my own interest and toil. With that, the primitive practice of defecation for our family members came to a halt. All of them started using the newly constructed pit latrine happily. Inspired by the improved practice, a few months later my father constructed another latrine of better quality. Thus our family began to rise in health, hygiene and sanitation. In February 1987, I was blessed by the Royal Government of Bhutan to serve the holy children of the holy Himalayan Kingdom as a teacher. This paved my path for further improvement of my toilet civilization. During the winter vacation of 1988, with the three months’ handsome advance winter salary, I constructed our third toilet, a modern one at my Indian home. For me, it was another rise. Next it arose in me that we should wash our hands with soap after visiting toilet. So another habit was added to my toilet hygiene standard.

My first posting in Bhutan was in a far flung school, Tsebar Primary School, under Pemagatshel district. In those far off days, the entire Tsebar village had only one private modern toilet belonged to Mr. Sangay Thinley, an altruistic businessman with dignified attitude. Oh Lord, I thank you. I was the winner of the prize of that healthy and modern toilet. As a tenant in Mr. Sangay Thinley’s house, I was privileged to have that advanced toilet in the so called backward settlement. Thank you Aata for providing me such a civilized toilet attached to your heavenly house. I had a great stay in your house. I bow to the temple like house.  Sister Pushpa Pradhan,  a teacher, Tsebar PS in 1989, who stayed in another house used to use my elevated  toilet cum bathroom every Sunday for a pleasant bath. Like an elder brother, I used to feel happy for my sister’s dignified bath. Mr. Mark, a Canadian resource teacher, also commended the toilet’s standard. A Japanese lady was wonder-struck to be able to find such a healthy toilet in such a remote place in those remote days. She radiated: “The toilet is so civilized.”

 After a decade of my life at the pristine hill-top, Tsebar, I was transferred to Nangkor Higher secondary School, Pemagatshel, at the school’s infancy in April 1997. In the new school, beside my regular teaching, Matronship, Librarianship, I was entrusted by my farsighted and compassionate Principal, Mr. Sonam Wangyal, the present Dasho Dzongda of Lhuentse dzongkhag, to serve the angelic children as the Health in-charge. In the list of my health activities, promoting toilet hygiene was the top priority for all the eleven years of my service at Nangkor HSS. During morning cleaning schedule, my supportive house wife always entered the girls toilets and guided and monitored the cleaning work.Upon completion of the sanitation, I used to go for final inspection. Mr. Tashi Chonjur, ex-principal of Nangkor commented: “ Madam( Mrs Chowdhury) was like a mother to my students at Nangkor.”

The most memorable and delighting toilet incident and experience of Nangkhor: As we strove to raise the standard of boys and girls toilets, I was also earnest to upgrade the health of our staff common toilets underneath the school administrative building. But it was difficult for me to open the gate to that opportunity for several factors. At last in 2005, the Principal, Mr. Sherub Gyeltshen, happened to unlock the door to my long  awaited and aspired opportunity. It went like this:  As I lived in the girls hostel which is inside the school campus, to answer nature call I always visited my private toilet which is about two minutes walk from the class rooms and staff toilets. One day as I went to my quarter to visit the toilet during morning interval, an ad hoc meeting was summoned by principal sir during the recess. Unaware of the sudden meeting call, I was using the ten- minute break leisurely at my residence when a friend rushed to my house to call me to the meeting. Nervous I hurried to the staff room and felt broken to see all the attendees waiting for me. Pricipal sir annoyed at my delay shot: “Where were you? I answered in a feeble voice: “ Sir, I went down to my house to  visit the toilet.” Sir shot back: “Toilets are attached here. Why do you need to go there? I replied: “Sir, Our staff toilet needs improvement for comfortable use.” On that Sir rightly and smartly delivered a blow: “You are the Health In-charge of the school! If staff toilet needs any improvement, it is your responsibility to ensure!” That propelled me to tread a new path for furtherance of our staff toilet. I prepared a list of requirements that included two large buckets, toilet cleaning brush, toilet cleanser liquid, hand washing soaps, phenyl  and submitted to  Principal sir in the very afternoon. Sir was kind, happy and prompt in action to procure the materials. The next morning I invited some senior volunteer students to help me to promote the toilet standard. Kezang Wangchuk, Class X, was the first to offer himself for this health service in the benefit of the school, and several others followed him to join me. The team rendered an excellent service every morning and ensured the toilets’ clean and pleasant condition. Principal sir and all teachers were happy. I felt blessed. Thank you Sherub Gyeltshen sir for your kind support. Your constant support and guidance was a fuel to my work spirit.

I was transferred to Wangchhu Middle Secondary school, Chukha in 2008. I was very happy to have got  more civilized toilets at Wangchhu School. However, sometimes there used to be no water in the school toilets. And I did not like to use the toilet without water. So whenever I had nature call and there was no water in our school toilets, I used to rush to my friends’ houses nearby the school to relieve myself. Once I opted to go to Karma Jamtsho’s house. Karma Jamtsho is a CHP employee, my ex-student, who like a devoted disciple supported my survival and service at Tsebar Primary School, Pemagatshel, in 1987and 88. When I went to his house to visit the toilet, Karma was away on duty and I had a communication problem with his wife who understands only Sharchop ( Eastern  Bhutanese  dialect), not English. So I chose to use my poor Sharchop. But my crippling sharchop broke down. I uttered THAPCHHANG and CHHAPCHHANG alternately forgetting the right word for toilet and burst into laughter.( Thapchhang means kitchen and chhapchhang means toilet) We laughed and laughed shaking the entire house. But she was wise enough to understand whether I was in need of their kitchen or the toilet and helped me accordingly. Indeed an worth sharing anecdote.


Toilet hygiene I have always valued as an index of civilization.

Comments

  1. I salute your thoughts over the common issues of Bhutanese day in and day out throughout la...thats wonderful. thanks

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you my dear friend Sancha Rai for your good will. May God bless you.

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