"Desh ki unnati ki pehchaan, agar kisi cheez se hoti hai ... toh woh hai gutter". "If the progress of a nation can be identified through something then it is through the gutter."
That is the ironically humorous dialogue mouthed by Commissioner Srivastava (played by Deepak Qazir) in the company of Taneja (played by Pankaj Kapur) in the 1983 cult classic which is so nuanced that it never fails to amaze - Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro.
And this aspect still holds true. Because the one thing we keep noticing is every monsoon, the biggest cause of flooding is clogged drains or basically jammed gutters. There are explanations galore and information about how drains were unclogged before the monsoons but inevitably the gutters get clogged resulting in water logging and the resultant outbreak of diseases, accidents and lives in danger.
Many a time sewage mixes with normal water resulting in even more calamitous consequences for residents.
So besides the social aspect of managing gutters there is the bigger aspect of building gutter awareness to prevent recurring incidences.
This Gutter certainly needs more Mutter.
First off let us look at the phrase 'Gandi Naali Ka Keeda' often used in Hindi movies and immortalised by Amitabh Bachchan in that scene in Hum in the scene where Tiger talks to Gonsalves and talks about how there are there are two kinds of 'keedas' (does it literally translate into bugs - perhaps yes) in this world. One rises from filth and dirt while the other rises from the filth of sin.
Well, Gandi Naali Ka Keeda has a whole new connotation now because there are sludge bugs of various kinds that can actually digest sewage and even convert it into something useful. Garbage strewn gutters can actually be populated with these keedas to help treat sewage and also perhaps convert it into something useful. And there can be nice paintings on the walls near these gutter populated with sludge bugs saying something like - 'Gandi Naali Ka Keeda Jo Saaf Karta Hain - Present here'.
Also extending the concept further there can be a whole series of comics set in the gutters. An alternate world inhabited by superbug superheroes - the 'Jedi Keedas' who though hopelessly outnumbered fight a relentless war against their mighty ever multiplying enemy - The Sewage Sith Lords. 'Sewage Wars- The Last Keeda. Playing at a gutter near you.'
Next comes the aspect of gutters themselves. Rather than just being open, stinking drains that clog in an instant there can actually be various types of gutters. The Vacuumized Gutter that has an inbuilt vacuum system to suck sewage and prevent clogs. The Safe Gutter that has inbuilt cushioning for people and animals that inevitably fall in during flooding. The Siren Equipped Gutter that starts sounding an alarm the moment anything other than sewage falls into it.
Then comes the branding opportunity of manhole covers of these sewage systems. Each manhole cover can tell a special story about that street ranging from its history to a famous personality who stayed on that street to some fantastic street food that is available close to that manhole.
Manhole covers can have lighting, also a stickering option to keep refreshing the image and a whole host of display possibilities. Far better than their current avatar of rusted metal with some engraving which is mentioned only when it is kept open and sucks in human beings.
Also every year so many cleaners die when they enter our gutter due to fatal fumes. A protection suit along with an oxygen tank needs to be created to ensure that not a single life is lost while cleaning sewages. And this protective suit equipped with a sewage cleaning vacuum gun has a good branding possibility too. Clogged drains. Who you gonna call? Drain Busters!
Finally, in terms of celebrity endorsement why not have Satish Shah who played the epochal character of Dmello as the spokesperson for clean and safe gutters? After all according to Srivastava in his speech - 'Woh gutter ke liye jiye. Woh gutter ke liye mare.' He lived for gutters and he died for gutters. While making us laugh his character also plonked consciousness and saliency about this stinky and always felt but forgotten category that we live amidst but never think about.
Now let us hope our civic authorities across the country do not simply say 'Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro' to doing something about our country's gutters.
(The author is a senior consumer marketing and financial services professional based in Vietnam who has lived and worked in India, Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore and Dubai. His book "Marketing Chronicles" is available on Amazon India, Flipkart and at key online/ physical book stores.)