“What these guys are learning in a university? They don’t even know how to use the toilets (Sorry...Washroom!)”, I used to exclaim every morning, seeing the ugly state of gents’ toilets here, in J- hostel, University of Hyderabad. But in the evening when I come back, they look so clean. So, here is a man, who has not studied in a university, yet he knows how to keep the toilets clean.
Sreenivas, 53, lives in Gopanpalli, just outside the campus. Having come from a distant village, he settled in this city many years back. His daily chores start with cleaning the J hostel, and then he goes to K- hostel and L- hostel. The job is not as easy as one might imagine. All hostels have four floors with each floor more than 100 meters long. In addition, each floor has two separate clusters of toilets cum bathrooms. I have seen him cleaning the urinals with a small brush, without even wearing any gloves.
Sreenivas talked very freely without any hesitation, smiling quite often. When asked whether he is provided with gloves or shoes, he replied in negative. But he said that contract agency gives him phenol or other cleaning liquids on some days. He is not a permanent employee of the university. Working here as a contract labourer earns him a monthly wage of Rs 5000/-.His wife is also working as daily wager in a nearby apartment complex. She is earning around Rs 4000/- per month. In a city like Hyderabad, monthly income of Rs 9000/- is not enough to have a comfortable life, yet he sends his two daughters to school. I could see a ray of hope on his face when he uttered the word school.
While we were talking, a student from the next room called him to clean his room. Without asking any questions sreenivas walked towards that room. He removed his old rubber chappals outside and started cleaning that room, even though it is not a part of his duty. I stood there for a moment before walking back to my room. I was just wondering, why can’t our students even keep their own rooms clean? What great Thoughts are they learning in this university, while they don’t even care to flush the toilets after use? And the final question; to whom does this hostel, this building and these corridors belong? Sreenivas or Students...?