She was a really happy fairy. She lived in a beautiful world of castles in the air, gurgling brooks, colourful butterflies,neat rows of flowers, fat, gambolling puppies, not the big eyed, street kind with their poor ribs showing and all. Not that she discriminated against them, but they were just so so sad, too much for her tender heart to bear. She would occasionally give them some Pedigree, ( making sure to wash her hands properly after) and she would, every June, donate money to the local shelter.
Her house was spic and span, she was always well dressed but never flashily. And she would only ever think good and kind thoughts. If occasionally and angry unkind thought swirled up , she would quickly meditate it away. She was very good, the fairy. Goodness just seemed to radiate from her. Everyone told her so.
Then unexpectedly, one day, at the very edge of her beautiful world, she came upon something horrific..it was..it was, she couldn’t even say the word…POO. Now even though she was a fairy and all, she too of course, you know, pooped. A good poop is very important and Good Fairy made sure she got enough plant fibre in her diet. But it was a very delicate affair. Early in the morning on her shiny porcelain potty, in her tea tree oil scented bathroom, quickly, efficiently, without any smells or sounds and she flushed it away without ever setting eyes on it.
But this here was not a delicate bit of fairy poo, it was, steaming pile of SHIT. The anger just gurgled up her throat at herself for thinking the word and at the inconsiderate person who had dared to, um, relieve themselves so close to her property. So she got her gambolling puppies to cover up the mess and cleared her aura by playing on a Tibetan singing bowl specifically tuned to vibrate at the same pitch as her throat chakra. The next morning Good Fairy set off again to inspect her property and what do you you know? Again, another nasty pile of shit. Good Fairy’s nerves were severely tested. Purposefully she marched around her exquisite border lined with lemongrass and citronella and rosemary to keep the nasty, god’s creatures ( inexplicable truth) of course, mosquitoes away and lo, every few metres there was shit, some old, some new, some borrowed, some blue. Everywhere she turned there was was shit and some to her horror were covered with another of God’s inexplicable creations, flies. The thought of flies and mosquitoes and so much shit so close to her exquisite paradise was too much for Good Fairy to take and another alien word, which she didn’t know she even had in her vocabulary just rushed up from the pit of her stomach and exploded out her before she could stop it, MOTHERFUCKER!
That’s it. She would build a wall around her home. She had tried to keep her heart open, but clearly no one was respectful of her choices or her property and so she had to take stern measures. She sourced local red laterite stones and got the local artisans to build a stout but aesthetically pleasing wall around her property. She threw some white climbing roses onto the wall returned to write in her daily gratitude journal about the contrast of white roses against the red wall. How grateful she would be for that she thought, all the while sipping on soothing rhododendron tea . When life hands you lemons…
But it did not last long, this hard won peace. One morning Good Fairy woke up giggling to some tickling and brushing on her face that she thought were her butterflies kissing her, and almost gagged when she saw that they were enormous, disgusting, blue bottle flies. Flapping frantically at them,she ran out to see that the beautiful red stone wall had fallen in under the weight of all the shit that had pile up behind and now her beautiful garden was filled with piles of shit and instead of the aroma of flowers and buzzing of bees and butterflies there was an all-pervading stink and buzzing of flies and mosquitoes and dear god, was that a cockroach?! Her paradise was lost.
It wasn’t even pleasant that she could have a cry to bemoan her fate. So Good Fairy clipped on her gossamer wings and flew out, determined to find the source of all this shit and to put a stop to it.
It wasn’t hard to find her way, she just had to go up shitcreek, which soon turned into a surging river of brown and green and yellow and black. Sludgy, thick, oozy, stinky shit. Every few metres poor Good Fairy had to pause to retch. She stopped to rest on a tree struggling to keep its head above the shit and that’s when she saw the people who lived in this shit filled world. They all looked ill and pale. The rich ones in fine clothes would be carried on the shoulders servants who had to wade through the shit in barefeet. Men and women were up to their neck in sewers choked up with trying to de-clog them. Many were working as manual scavengers, carrying baskets filled with shit from the houses of the rich. She couldn’t believe there were people who did that to other people and thought of her pretty toilet with a heavy heart. For she too had added to her shit to this river. It was now getting harder and harder to fly in the dank, heavy, stench-filled air. Soon she have to start walking on the shit covered streets she knew. And that time came soon enough, when someone cleaning out their clogged sewers threw a bucket load of shit her way. The shit had finally hit the fan.The last of her beautiful dream world gone, she dropped her useless, shit laden wings to the ground and marched on foot. She, Good Fairy, was indistinguishable from the denizens of shit street.
The river was now a raging torrent, with shit flying everywhere, Good Fairy had to keep wiping it off her eyes to be able to see. And finally she was there at the source of all the shit. A huge monster sat alone on an ever growing volcanic mountain of shit. It seemed to ooze from under him. She looked at him and curiously he ( if it was indeed a ‘he’) looked like,
“Shit. You look like shit, you know”, said Good Fairy to the shit monster.
“Yea, I really haven’t been sleeping too well”, replied Shit Monster in surprisingly lilting voice. “ Do you think, I’m fat?” he asked, pulling his tummy in. “ See all this sitting around isn’t really good for my figure. I know you are a stranger and all that, but nobody ever comes to see me”, he finished sadly.
Good Fairy had a soft heart and couldn’t bear to tell him the truth, though she was a firm believer in Radical Honesty. She also remembered what she was there for.
“Why are you so shitty, Shit Monster”, she asked, “Why, why, why, did you shit on my life? My home, my land, my dream? I am a good person. I’ve never hurt anyone. I am a vegan, I bake my own sourdough bread in my solar cooker made out of recycled aluminium, I wear fair trade cotton, I never use palm oil , thus can never be accused of indirectly destroying orangutan habitat, I homeschool for godsakes! Why did you do this to me”, she wailed, tears streaming down her face, creating tracks on her soiled cheeks.
“Me, moi?!” I’ve never shit on anyone’s life” replied Shit Monster looking hurt, “I’ve been put here on this spot to plug more shit from coming out. You humans keep shitting and flushing it down and and I can’t contain it anymore. See what happens ” he said lifting one giant buttcheek. Immediately a geyser of shit burst forth.
“No, no, put it back, put it back”, screamed Good Fairy. The Shit Monster heaved his butt back on the shithole again.
“All this shit is just too much to take, he sighed. I haven’t had a break in years. They haven’t even found a replacement for me. Tell, how’s my complexion otherwise?”
And so Good Fairy sat down next to Shit Monster, she had nowhere else to go anyway. “I’m also a shit monster you know” Good Fairy said after a fashion, “I am so full of shit…” Shit Monster gave her a squelching hug.
They spoke of this and that for a while. Then Good Fairy had a thought. “You know what they say, when life gives you lemons…”
“ No, I don’t” said Shit Monster, “what are lemons?”
“They are a citrus fruit. Nevermind. You know what, we are going to compost.”
So she dug a hole in the ground and and buried some of the shit, then she put some mud and leaves on it. And she kept going until the hole was full. Good Fairy then went looking for lemons, and she found a slightly rotten one in a pile of garbage outside a house. She took it back to the Shit Monster and in the shit and mud filled hole she also buried a few seeds from the lemon.
Good Fairy and Shit Monster are BFFs now. They are growing an orchard of organic citrus trees. Shit Monster has acquired a taste for marmalade after Good Fairy told him the story of Paddington Bear. Good Fairy has also planted lemongrass and other aromatic plants. Occasionally she covers the hole for Shit Monster, so he can take a break. A few government officials have come to take note of Good Fairy and Shit Monsters composting project. They may implement it on a case to case basis in rural areas.
I think this story of mine needs some explaining. I first ad-libbed it to my children and husband, on a quiet afternoon, purely as a metaphorical-introspective tale. And also it was super fun to see the look of pure joy and wonder on my son’s and daughter’s faces to hear their mother say shit and motherfucker and buttcheek.
The truth is we are flushing our shit away, leaving it to others to deal with it. This is both a literal situation and a figurative one. Wars, suicides, rapes, degradation of our environment on a planetary scale, the shit just keeps accumulating, while we vacuously trawl malls and cinema halls and pubs and restaurants and social media, unable to sit quietly for even a couple of minutes. We cannot seem to bear to spend time with ourselves, to listen to voices inside us telling us to sort our own shit out first.
The sight of a poor immigrant woman, in Mumbai, entering a sewer in saree, with no protective gear while her baby slept on near the mouth of the sewer has never left me. Our squeaky clean toilets inside our homes, scoured relentlessly with toxic chemicals have enslaved thousands of people who underneath our antiseptic commodes are living and dying, cleaning our shit. Enslaved they are by the two perennial Indian excuses, caste and karma. Manual scavenging is banned across India, which only means that they do not show up on government rosters and therefore are even more disenfranchised by the law than protected by it. Thousands of sewage workers have died and their deaths completely unaccounted for, because, they simply do not exist officially. If you can stomach it, watch Kakkoos ( toilet) a wrenching film by Divya Bharathi on manual scavenging in Tamil Nadu. It’s now available on YouTube.