Of Sanitation, Sanitisers and good old Soap !
Columns, Over A Cup of Evening Tea

Of Sanitation, Sanitisers and good old Soap !

November 22, 2019

By Dr. K. Javeed Nayeem, MD

A recent report says that the tap water supplied to residents in fifteen out of twenty one of our major cities and State capitals where the survey was conducted was found to be unsafe. We have to be thankful that it was found safe in six of them! Delhi sadly stands at the bottom of this list of safety of clean water. We already know that it stands at the bottom of the list when it comes to clean air too.

But what surprised me most was the observation of the survey team that Mumbai not only fell in the elite group of six but also emerged at the top as the city that had the safest tap water which met the standards prescribed by the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) admirably well.

I call this surprising considering the fact that this coastal metropolis that is now in some real danger of being submerged by the Arabian Sea, is the one that suffers the greatest flooding during the long monsoon that it endures every year. And, we all know very well that flooding is what contaminates drinking water most, causing raging epidemics.

But irrespective of where we live across the length and breadth of our country, we all know that we have to go to great lengths to ensure that the water we drink and use for cooking is reasonably safe. While the poor do this quite effectively by simple boiling, all those who can afford to do so achieve it or think that they are achieving it, by incorporating the use of some fancy and often very high-tech water filters!

That is why we see some of our best known celebrities lending their images to the water filter brands which are all doing very brisk business. But what I have been observing over the past few years ever since hand sanitisers became widely available is that most people are becoming very fastidious about sanitising their hands before eating anything. It is a different matter that they are not at all mindful of what they eat and whether the hands of the person cooking and serving it are clean or not! The guiding principle and motto here seem to be: ‘If it tastes good, it is good enough to eat’!

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It is now the ‘in-thing’ for ladies of all cultured families to have miniature hand sanitiser bottles dangling from the zippers of their clutches and hand bags whenever they are on the go. And, the few who comprise the cream among them also ensure that the colour of their sanitiser bottle matches the colour of the dresses they wear and the handbags they tote! That is why you can now buy full sets of multi-hued sanitiser bottles that can put the rainbow to shame. It is now the sacred duty of the lady to squirt a few drops from these dainty dispensers onto the hands of their husbands and kids before  they seat themselves at the dining tables.

This is the scene now at all airports, hotels, resorts, weddings and wayside stops. All this is fine. They are effectively dealing a death blow to all the germs that dwell on their hands. But what surprises me most is the fact that most people these days think that the hand sanitiser is a perfect substitute for soap and so do not bother to wash their hands even after using toilets. They cannot be more wrong!

While sanitisers do kill germs effectively they simply cannot cleanse our hands of all the grime and muck that we pick up while we go about our daily lives. There is no substitute for a good wash with good old soap. Mind you, hand sanitising therefore makes sense only when it comes after proper hand washing. Otherwise what you could be ingesting is only sanitised dirt!

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A Near-Death Experience for a Doctor !

Last Sunday doctors in Mysuru had the privilege of participating in two Continuing Medical Education (CME) Programmes that were conducted to enrich their knowledge and keep it updated. They were both held in two of our most prestigious hotels and at one of them one of our very senior Physicians had what I can only call a ‘Near Death Experience.’

Yes, it was as bad as that although we all had a good laugh afterwards. After our man had used the rest room when he turned to the row of washbasins to wash his hands he saw a lady standing at one of them! Devastated that he had committed the sacrilege of entering the wrong washroom, he rushed outside to check if he or the lady was at fault.

On finding that he was not guilty of the faux-paus he re-entered what was now confirmed as his legitimate territory and on a closer examination discovered to his great relief and disgust too that the lady there was only cleaning the wash basins and not using them!

When he told us about the incident we all felt that it was indeed a very shocking and embarrassing experience and it could have been avoided if only the hotel management had refrained from assigning a lady to clean and maintain the men’s rest rooms.

Incidentally, these days, humble toilets, which we most inappropriately call by the fancy name of ‘Rest Rooms’ instead of being clearly labelled as ‘Men’ or ‘Women’ are only decorated with graphic signs showing a male and female figure. So before entering one of them you have to carefully check whether the figure is wearing a pant or a skirt which is not a very easy task when you are in a hurry. And, as we all know, most people entering toilets are understandably in a tearing hurry, unlike those exiting them!

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ONE COMMENT ON THIS POST To “Of Sanitation, Sanitisers and good old Soap !”

  1. What a culture! says:

    “A recent report says that the tap water supplied to residents in fifteen out of twenty one of our major cities and State capitals where the survey was conducted was found to be unsafe. We have to be thankful that it was found safe in six of them! Delhi sadly stands at the bottom of this list of safety of clean water. We already know that it stands at the bottom of the list when it comes to clean air too”
    Well, the PM is interested in grand schemes like Chandrayaan, Digital India etc.., and no time for the minor lapses like unhygienic tap water which is consumed by hundreds of millions of Indians!!

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