India diary: coming clean

Getting clean in India is difficult. Keeping clean thereafter is even more difficult. Avoiding the dirt at any time is impossible and totally impractical. There is a kind of smoggy dust on the streets that clings to your clothes, fills up your sandals and creeps under your doors. It gathers in the corners of the bedroom and the bathroom and settles on top of furniture overnight. You can wash yourself, (that is if you have running water) which is a real issue for a lot of people. Even ourselves, we’ve had some water issues in our earlier accommodation, but it hasn’t stopped us trying to keep the dirt at bay.

The water of most buildings in the city is stored in large barrels on the flat rooftops. The idea is that gravity can then send water downwards to the occupants. The barrel will usually be big, plastic and black. This brings to mind a Junior Certificate Science experiment where a silver tin can full of water is heated and a similar but black tin can of water is also heated in tandem. The result was that the black tin can heated quickly and to a greater extent. Cold shower? Might as well have a kettle on the roof.

Everyone loves sweeping in Delhi. Sweeping the floors, sweeping the streets, sweeping everywhere. There are no sweeping brushes per say, but rather there are these rush-grass type sweeper stick things. There were about 3 in our house before we even moved in and they are ridiculously effective, but they look like a cross between Harry Potter’s nimbus 2000 and the branch of a tree.

The cleaning of ears is a thriving business in the city centre. Little men will run up to you with photos of previously satisfied customers having their ear canals probed with slender rods, all for a small, small price. Why not?

There are so many people who will offer their services when it comes to cooking your food, washing your clothes or of course sweeping your floors. We’ve had one absolutely delightful lady come to cook our team an evening meal every weekday and it’s been one of the highlights of our daily lives. Most of us however have opted to wash our own clothes and in the absence of a washing machine we’ve donned a beautiful silver pail, which now comes with us (full of clothes) for those lovely warm showers.

Our school has less than perfect water facilities. That, coupled with our morning tradition of shaking every child’s hand at least once means that 30 junior handshakes later and we’ve already used our drinking water for hand-washing.

Indian clothes look smashing; the bright colours are amazing. But when it comes to washing them and the washing powder recommends a 30 degree colour wash, there’s not much you can do when the atmospheric temperature is 40 upwards. I have a few pinky/orangey t-shirts that used to be white to prove this.

The water here is predictably undrinkable. So all showers are closed-mouth showers and when it comes to open-mouth practices like brushing your teeth you’d be well advised to have some bottled water on hand.

The bum gun, this is a staple in southern Asia. The toilets here (be they lovely sit-down toilets or the more common squat-over-a –hole toilet) don’t have toilet paper in their diet so you’ve got to pipe-it instead of wipe-it. It actually makes a lot of sense.

The views expressed in Dan's diaries are his own personal observations of life in India and not the views of the organisation he is working with or his partner school.

Follow Dan here: @CouldntGiveADan