Mumbai's hygiene heroes

Published: Dec 23, 2012, 01:51 IST | Moeena Halim |

Five characters make up the Masti Clean kit, which aims to teach underprivileged children the importance of maintaining basic hygiene

Meet Cutter Pari, Sabun Safai, Mr Manjan, Mrs Manoranjan and Mr India. These are the country’s latest superheroes. Or so hopes Ektaa Aggarwal, creative director, Landor Associates.

Aggarwal and her team at Landor have created these characters and a Masti Clean kit with the intention of teaching underprivileged children to maintain better levels of hygiene. The villain in this case is the giant louse, aptly named Mogambo.

“Children don’t appreciate being talked down to by elders. Through this kit, and by creating these characters, we are using a cool and creative way to teach them to stay clean and maintain basic hygiene,” says Aggarwal, who used to teach slum kids at Bandra through NGO Aashansh. Among other things, the kit teaches them to keep clean using just four mugs of water.

A young child carrying Landor’s Masti Clean kit. Pics courtesy/ Landor Associates

Aggarwal used to hold classes for the children from the NGO at her former office in Bandra. That’s when she realised the urgency of teaching them the importance of basic hygiene. “When I spoke to their parents I realised that their living conditions were such that hygiene wasn’t a high priority. As a result, the kids were constantly falling sick,” she rues.

That’s when the idea of a Masti Clean kit was conceptualised. “Each of the five characters represent a product. Cutter Pari — a nail cutter, Sabun Safai — a bar of soap, Mr Manjan — a toothbrush, Mrs Manoranjan — toothpaste and Mr India — the anti-lice kit. Once the products are used up, the box can be utilised as a desk. Children can also store their tidbits in it,” explains Rukhmini Bhatia, graphic designer, Landor Associates. The box is made out of corrugated cardboard, which is both cheap and extremely strong. “This way we were able to keep the price to a minimal $1 (approximately Rs 54).”

A nail cutter named as Cutter Pari  is part of the clean kit

“The children who come to us at Aashansh are used to living in an area surrounded by filth. They wash their clothes, spit, use datoon, have a bath and urinate in the same place. Once every 15 days they visit the doctor, but they’re bound to fall sick again because of their unhygienic living conditions,” explains Ramesh Joshi, founder, Aashansh.

“The kit uses an interactive and creative method to introduce the kids to hygiene. The idea is to teach them through a poem so that they remember it. For instance, every time they bathe, they might think of Sabun Safai.”

A mock session at Aashansh revealed just how much the children loved the concept. “The team from Landor came to introduce the Masti Clean kit to the children at our centres in Worli and Bandra. They told them about all the characters in the box. Ever since, the kids have not stopped asking about the kit,” laughs Joshi.

Trupti Abhyankar, a fellow with Teach for India, is extremely keen to introduce her class at the Jogeshwari East municipal school to the Masti Clean kit. “This year, we have lost three children to diseases related to poor hygiene. Low income families are just not aware of the importance of hygiene, and their children inevitably end up missing days, sometimes weeks, of school because they’ve come down with diarrhoea or dengue,” says Abhyankar.

The distribution channel of the kits is to be through NGOs across the country. Once they receive enough funding, Landor hopes to hand over the kits to the various NGOs that work with kids. “We will train the volunteers at these organisations to introduce the characters using the poem we have specially created,” says Aggarwal.

The characters, she hopes, will become a part of the children’s lives and continue to guide them to do things the right way.

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