Dispatches From Delhi: Meeting the Godfather of India’s Sanitation Movement
Our plane landed in New Delhi just after 2 a.m. on March 17. Exiting the airport with my colleague Mitch Koss, we hopped into an ancient taxi with a sticker of a Hindu god on the dashboard. We checked into our hotel, napped until dawn, and were back on the road by 9.
Our guide for the day was a new friend, our driver, Jasbir. He promised to cap off the tour that night with a drink in celebration of the Holi festival, set to occur that day.
I experienced India's soul over the next few hours with visits to a pair of significant places of worship: the Jama Masjid, the country's largest mosque, and Gurudwara Bangla Sahib, a prominent Sikh temple.
Mitch and I later filmed a group of locals celebrating and playing with Holi colors—representing the arrival of spring—in the street. One moment I was speaking into the camera, and the next I was being pulled into the dancing group of women. (I had no inkling how to do the dance but made what I thought was a valiant effort.) At one point, a puff of dark pink powder exploded in my face, and another color bomb covered my hair in streaks.
When we returned to the hotel—after the promised drinks with Jasbir, of course—I quickly rinsed off the colors and headed out again with Mitch to the home of Dr. Bindeshwar Pathak, founder of Sulabh International Social Service Organisation. He had invited us for Holi dinner, and he greeted us by dabbing Holi colors on our foreheads. There, for the first time, I ate a home-cooked Indian meal.
We will see Pathak again at the Sulabh International Museum of Toilets, so there is more to come on this dignified man with an eternal smile and his humanitarian story we are here to witness.