A tête-à-tête with the Toilet Guy!

09 March 2011

At Pardada Pardadi, Mr. Ron Fuchs’ name is synonymous with that of a toilet’s. You think of a toilet, you think of Ron, and when you think of Ron, you immediately think of a toilet.

Ron makes sure his commitment brings him to Anoopshahr from Baltimore, USA at least once every year. Before he took off his flight back to the US on March 3, he completed the inspection and jump started the construction of a community toilet in one of the most marginalized communities in Anoopshahr. There is so much that a PPES toilet is connected to: Health and Hygiene, Employment, the cause of a Green Environment, and much much more. And, it’s not just in the mind anymore, it’s in the process where people are teaming up in innovative ways and bringing in great IDEAS! We’re sure you have something too, get in touch with us on info@pardadapardadi.org

A tête-à-tête with Mr. Ron Fuchs as we know him

81 toilets in 12 villages in one year. How do you see
this outcome/achievement?

It’s a good start. I would like to have at least one toilet built in every village that sends girls to PPES. The idea is to set an example, to show what can be done with a little effort.

Why and how did you think of gifting a toilet to the families in villages? There are open fields where people poop lavishly.

The idea originated during a visit to China. China has made great strides in both rural and urban sanitation. I originally suggested a community toilet for Sam’s village, Bichola, but Sam thought we should try individual toilets first. We developed a model based on World Bank experience with slight modification for the Indian culture and environment. A toilet is an alternative to the open fields which provides privacy, safety and sanitization not available in a field.

Do you think the concept of hygiene standard is overblown to suit the western standards? Is a toilet all about a matter of accessibility?

I believe that health and hygiene standards are universal, not Western or Eastern. Dignity, privacy, safety and health don’t recognize political or cultural divides.Our toilets are the “squat pan”type, very foreign to Westerners, but just if not more functional.

What is the value of a toilet in your life?

In life there are certain basic needs, the most basic being food, clothing and shelter. Shelter is more than a roof over your head. A toilet to me is in that basic need category, though once acquired; it’s certainly taken for granted.

Can you recall a particular incident or a story when you felt ‘why don’t we have something as basic as a toilet in Anoopshahr?

Yea, on my first visit to Anoopshahar, jet lag had me awake at 5:00 AM so I went for a walk and initially could not figure out why there were women alone in the fields at that hour. That’s when the China experience gave me the idea.

Could you share some of the setbacks, especially the ones that made you frown?

I had hoped to train a local team to build our model toilet and be available for private engagement. So far we haven’t been able to make that work. I still have difficulty with the Indian male who has no interest in working but will sit around a work site all day and offer advice. I am also frustrated by the large number of village kids who should be in school but are not.

Can we put your story simply as’ I want to construct toilets, and I am going to Anoopshahr?’

No, it’s a story that begins with an inspiration from seeing hundreds of girls at school, looking you in the eye and saying, “Good morning Sir.” The story continues with Sam willing to try out an idea if he thinks it will benefit his India. I just had the luck to be in the right place at the right time.

Where do you and the toilet project go from here?

Back to the first idea, ‘Community toilets’. More “bang for the buck”. One seat in a community toilet can be used by a hundred or so customers ever day, verses the 5-10 family members who will use an individual family toilet. In the smaller villages we will continue with the original model. Me, I love India and just about everything about it, so I’ll be using the “toilet project” as an excuse to return again and again.


Enny Cramer said...

What a great piece! Thank God that we are not all "ugly", I'd like to meet Ron, and hear him talk about this project.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for posting this wonderful story. I met Ron in the village of Anupshahar while teaching an art project at Pardada Pardadi. He does this important work selflessly and with a smile. He is my favorite Republican!

Dr. Rikki Asher, Director of Art Education, CUNY at Queens College

suparnakumar roychoudhury said...

nice, the dedication and commitment for the mankind is tremendous

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