Your filth

The filth I was carrying on my body was yours.

I am filthy, you are clean; but who is filthier? I spent my whole life diving into gutters, suffocatingly stinky, my sweat mixed with the filth of the whole city and I never complained because what is gutter for you is bread and butter for me.

I often came home drenched in that filth but my children never called me stinky and dirty. Instead, despite all your filth on my body, they cuddled and hugged me every evening. Neither did they cringe over my “dirty” body nor did they ask me to take a bath before coming home.

Partially, it was their ‘unclean’ love for me and partially the signboards erected by the municipality on every nook and corner of the city, announcing “Cleanliness is half of faith”. I never realised that I was filthy to the core.

I never grumbled over the tons of filth generated by the cleanliness-loving city. I never frowned on the heaps of rubbish generated by you clean people, sprawling across the city. I never murmured a single word on taking away the poisonous and hazardous waste of the hospitals infested with fatal germs which may terminate my life. I never complained about cleaning and washing the bedsheets of the patients smeared with fecal remains. I never raised my eyebrows over the rampant and ubiquitous stink suffocating the alleys and streets of you clean people.

I swept in the streets, I spent my days carrying away the heaps of rubbish and I dived into gutters without ever realising that the dirt of the streets, the rubbish of the heaps and the sludge of the gutters were heaping on my own body.

I never realised that the souls and the minds of “this filth-generating” society could be filthier than the stinking gutters and heaps of rubbish.

While hawkishly scrounged for food for my children in your heaps of rubbish, I used to envy every passerby wearing clean clothes and who gave off a soul-captivating fragrance. Every cleanly clad body inspired me but the white coat of the doctor used to impress me the most. I mistakenly took this white coat as an announcement of cleanliness of body, purification of soul, affection, lovability of a heart throbbing for the survival of the ill and the sick.

By some stroke of fate, I did not go to a place where I could study and interact with enlightened souls and learn the philosophy of life. Whatever I learnt, I learnt while sweeping rubbish-strewn streets. My “rubbish and raw” education and observation of life made hospitals and clinics a sacred place for society because wherever I went, I saw and faced discrimination and humiliation.

I could clean the posh five-star hotels but I could never imagine dining there because of my filthy body or perhaps the filthy thinking of society. I could only enter the posh clubs just to sweep their rubbish because my status or the status quo of society declared me rubbish not to be tolerated by the civilised  and cultured visitors of the club.

I even faced the hatred of my own clients, who blocked my entry into their houses whose gutters I unblocked.

I drew the conclusion that the hospital is the only place where I would be entertained as a patient and not as a sweeper. Doctors would only ask my sickness not of my class, job and social background. I adored doctors, their souls and their bodies because they were the healers of humanity.

But the palace of my ill-bred imagination fell to the ground when, lying half unconscious on the floor of Civil Hospital Umerkot, I overheard that you refused to touch me because of sludge and filth on my body. Poisonous  gases from the sewerage line did not kill me, it was your dirty words. The filth I was carrying on my body was yours.

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August 2017
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