Unique Toilet Garden in Ahmedabad promotes sanitation

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The seating spaces, commodes and latrine slabs, are headturners. The cafe can accommodate 25-30 people at one time. (Courtesy: The Toilet Garden)

The Toilet Garden, located next to Sabarmati Ashram in Ahmedabad, Gujarat, is a café that creates awareness about sanitation and hygiene, according to a Yourstory.com report.

The café is designed using toilets as seats with the backdrop of greenery and cemented floors and one can enjoy their hot steaming coffee while “sitting on the toilet.”

Open twice a week, the Toilet Garden can house up to 30 people at a time and its walls are covered with quotes and anecdotes related to sanitation like “Poverty is no bar to sanitation.”

The tables of this cafe are a talking point, for obvious reasons! (Courtesy: The Toilet Garden)

According to Yourstory.com, the café seems to bring alive the teachings of Mahatma Gandhi, who wanted to make sanitation a priority for India more than a century ago and the Safai Vidyalaya campus houses a biogas plant where all human waste is collected.

The café also has an open auditorium for performances, mainly for events organized by Sabarmati Ashram or Safai Vidyalaya, according to Yourstory.com

The Toilet Garden started out as an idea 70 years ago during the struggle for India’s Independence, when Ishwarbhai Patel, then only 10-years-old, was shocked when one of his teachers lectured his class about open defecation, manual scavenging and the way the community that cleaned night soil was treated by the public, according to Yourstory.com.

Ishwarbhai Patel, the Founder of Safai Vidyalaya and the brain behind Toilet Garden. (Courtesy: The Toilet Garden)

But it wasn’t until the late 1950s, after Patel graduated from college that he decided to follow his heart and began on working to change the lives of thousands of sanitation workers.

He was soon recognized as ‘Mr. Toilet,’ the one who sought for an end to the caste system and to allow the entry of “untouchables” into temples.

Patel traveled throughout the country for over 50 years, trying to understand the loopholes in the system while spreading the message of sanitation.

The toilets that are open to visitors. Upon usage, every visitor is awarded with Rs 2 for their contribution towards promoting sanitation. (Courtesy: The Toilet Garden)

On December 26, 2010, however, he passed away at the age of 77, leaving behind a legacy focusing on sanitation.

But the awareness about sanitation has still not made it all around India today as 600 million people still defecate in the open.

According to the most recent Swachhta Status Report of the National Sample Survey Office (NSSO), in 2015, more than half of the rural population (52.1 percent) still defecated in the open, making it a major public health and sanitation problem.

The aim of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s nationwide cleanliness drive is to clean up India by 2019, the year that marks the 150th anniversary of the birth of Gandhi, the report said. Even as the government rallies to build more toilets, end open defecation, and improve waste management, this little café is doing its bit.

The space also houses an open auditorium for performance art. (Courtesy: The Toilet Garden)
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