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That Gandhi may not be born again

Dr Bindeshwar Pathak's Sulabh has triggered a social revolution

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In 1967, 25 year old Bindeshwar Pathak had missed getting a First Class that would have landed him a lecturer's job in a college. He tried being a school-teacher, a pay-roll clerk and even a street by street salesman of his grandfather's bottles of proprietary home-cure mixture.

Deciding to get himself a Master's degree at Sagar University, MP, he boarded a train. At Hajipur, an elderly family friend talked him out of his move and promised him a 'good job' instead, in the Gandhi Centenary Committee at 'Rs.600 per mensum'. He got off the train and was led to Patna. The promised job wasn't quite there nor did life settle down for him, but he believes that his lifelong commitment to scavenger liberation through maintenance-free toilets began that day.

Contrasting Grandpas:

Or had it? Maybe it in fact began when he was a child and growing up in Vaishali and Sitamarhi. Maternal grandfather Pandit Jaya Nandan Jha had been to jail in the cause of India's freedom, even before Gandhi did in India. He had in fact been Gandhi's pilot to Hajipur and Vaishali. Pt. Jha was an egalitarian. The paternal grandfather was the opposite, though.

"Time spent at the Pathak household were mystifying," says Bindeshwar. "Of the many 'rules', the one about not touching certain people intrigued me. Grandmother would sprinkle water on the paths such people had walked. And mutter some, as she did."

One day, young Bindeshwar decided -as children are wont to- to 'touch' a classified woman, just to see what happened- and hell certainly broke loose. He was given a ritual bath and administered a nugget of cow-dung and cow-urine, chased down by water from the Ganga.

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