Disposing of two things are not easy where I live. It is painful to see these two lying about on the streets, in the park and in other public places. While one is considered holy the other is a taboo. The very fact that I am bringing these two things under one umbrella could be considered sacrilegious by many.
So these two things are: used/broken idols (holy) and used sanitary towels (unholy). The former is purposely kept, under a holy tree while the latter I happened to see when I saw two stray dogs dig them out from the public bin in search of food, and many times even after that.
So what are the holy idols, that once adorned the little temples in the houses of many, lying in dust under the trees in the public? I fail to understand the way many people dispose of the idols when they are done with them or when they are broken. Idols which are mostly made of stones are breakable and they do break. It is considered wrong to keep a broken idol at home (and why would you keep something broken anyway?), hence one has to dispose it off. But where? You certainly can’t even think of throwing them in the bin. That is an absolute profanity. Some people, including my mother, take it to a local temple and keep it under the tree there. What the local priest does with it is something I don’t know. Some people go miles to a water body and submerge it. Immersion of any thing in River Yamuna has, as I noticed a month ago, become a concern for the local government as there is a warning board prohibiting one from throwing anything in it. So where do you then dispose the broken/used idols ? As I have been noticing for many years, the best spot is under a holy tree – a peepal tree usually, never mind where the tree is- it could be on the corner of the road, in a public park, outside a temple or just anywhere. So a nice, eclectic collection of idols had been lying under the peepal tree inside my local park where I jog every morning. Nobody had touched them, mostly out of superstition or fear of being reproached by someone, for a long time till one fine morning recently, the park gardener, who must be an octogenarian and looks as if he can’t be bothered by the worldly issues and havoc one little thing/action can create, transferred the idols from the ground to the bench which is just outside the park. The bench still is under the same peepal tree as the tree happens to be just at the entrance of the park. I continue to see the idols every morning seated on the bench. The same idols to which we all genuflected to when they were respectfully placed in our houses. Now we just walk past them. (See picture above).
Moving onto the sanitary towels now. For many years I have faced this trouble on a monthly basis on how to dispose of the used towels. It was easy in the girls’ hostel where I spent 5 tormenting years as a teenager. The administration took care of the disposal. All we had to do was dispose it of in the bins. It was only after I had left the hostel and started to live with my parents that I realised it was a big problem. No wonder you have big notes in the ladies’ toilets in public places warning you to not to flush the pad in the bin as it would only block it. So I never tried flushing it. It was an embarrassing subject to be even discussed with my mum. I remember taking the used towels wrapped in the newspaper and throwing them sometimes over the wall (ours was a corner house then) or even in the public bins when I made sure that no one was looking around. But this was more than a decade ago. As a middle-aged woman I have become smarter now, at least that’s what I think thought I still have to dispose them of using some discretion.
Only recently I realised that this continues to be a social problem even now and in many other houses too including in my area – a somewhat plush locality. Many stray dogs, birds, monkeys and even peacocks look inside the lid-less public bins for food regularly. A particular green bin in the corner of our next lane is quite a mess. So the other morning while on my way to jog I happened to notice two stray dogs fighting over something. On a closer look, it was a used sanitary towel that they had dug out from the bin. It looked as if they had found some treasure! They had a good time tearing it apart and fighting over it while the other used sanitary towels, from the same common bag, lay near the bin. The fact that you have to get out of our house to throw them in a public bin means we haven’t made much progress socially.
Another time, while I happened to visit my father some years ago in a different city (and when I didn’t think on this subject then) I noticed a used towel thrown (three days continuously) from one of the floors of the building to the ground floor. I used to look up but to no avail. So this girl/lady found this method of disposal as an easier option. Just throw it down from the bathroom window! With hundreds of people living in the building who would know who has thrown it! In all likelihood, it could be another young girl or a lady, educated yes as I would imagine all to be living there, but shy to discuss this topic at home and with men around. I am glad that some sort of revolution is taking place in the country and in the world, where the subject of menstruation is being openly talked about.
My solution: an openly designated space/box for each in the areas we live where we can respectfully and with no embarrassment dispose them off.