Note : This article has been written strictly from a man's point of view. I never got an opportunity to visit a women's public toilet for my research. Blame it on the Penis.
India is a land of experiences like no other. We’re a balanced country, believe it or not. We have the richest of richest to the poorest of poor. We have a Taj Mahal and to counter that we have Dharavi. However, living in this wonderful country has made us not cherish most of its experiences on offer. It’s not our fault really. We tend to overlook the daily marvels we experience. As they say, the hen at home is equal to pulses. Ghar ki murgi daal barabar. Yes, some things should never be translated.
So yes, experiences. One such marvelous experience I am an advocate of is that of the Indian Public Toilet. I believe that our public toilets should be recommended in tourist guides and we should charge a high entry fee for tourists to experience them. We, of-course, have grown up to really get used to them so we don’t appreciate it as much. And I know this wish of mine to see an Indian public toilet visit recommended in a tourist guide book will not come true till the year Mulayam Singh becomes P.M. Hence, I have decided to take matters of glorifying the sulabh in my own unwashed hands. Breaking down this great adventure to you:
The Signage :
To locate this place is a task fit for a Sherlock Holmes book. Why else do you think we love to susu in the open? That, and the 2 rupees that we hate to pay. It’s never easy to spot a sulabh shauchalaya when you need one. One may look for signage or directions but hey, this is not Europe. You have to ask someone. And if you’re lucky to find a signage, it sometimes turns out to be quite beautiful. Like this one:
I don’t want to imagine how this person checks up on how people have used his toilets. There has to be a story behind that.
The Railways have been known to always be a step ahead when it comes to creative minds. Take a look :
So in times of need you need to respect protocol and stand in a queue of ticket offenders and other guests before you can request the station master to let you have a bucket and mug. The simpler option is obviously to make do without the bucket and mug and save water in the process.
And if that was not experiential enough for you, check out this one for the women, urm, ladies.
Special mention : This one signage was seen used in an International Flight from India. For obvious reasons. I'm a fan of the effective visual communication in use here.
Try any public toilet near a local train station and there will be a queue of men holding their bladder from causing thundershowers in their Amazon. Best part about this queue is that this is the only queue in India where people will not be talking to each other. It's like they silently understand each other's compulsions of going through this experience. Sometimes they're surprised at themselves at having discovered the art of standing silently at a public queue without having chaotic, uncivil thoughts. Apparently socializing and small talk take a backseat when it comes to Mother Nature’s call.
This is it:
When all the build up is done, time comes to face the music. The element you actually came all the way to an obscure public toilet for. The Urinal. This is where you get the true worth of your buck (or two). It can range from awkward to simply bizarre. I’ll let the pictures do the talking. Because describing it in words will make me take out the ‘words to insult’ chapter of ‘Word power made easy’.
If you get one of these, you’re lucky.
Personally, I hate peeing on these urinals which are practically just walls. It’s just impractical. By the end of your stream, you have to try really really hard to keep it to the wall because if you miss it, the traces of several species of urine could be found on the lower part of your trousers. It’s the liquid splashing against liquid giving rise to droplets effect.
And then there is the classic Indian style. Which is all fine by me unless it looks something like the picture below.
They say a woman can bring a man to his knees whenever she wants. The municipal corporations may have stolen the bragging rights there. Looky:
And then there is the absolute king of all pieces of toilet art. I like to call it the chair-inal.
Toilet Literature :
The greatest of ideas have been known to hit us while doing the most basic activity of relieving ourselves. Some of us take those ideas and change the world. And then there are some who take these ideas and change the toilet walls with it.
Toilet literature is India’s version of graffiti art. Some of the best craftsmen can be seen at work here. In my mind this is the 2nd most underestimated Indian art form. The first being Paan spit art on the walls.
I have personally noticed Engineering students to be pretty damn efficient at it. No wonder they do so well in every profession except Engineering. You can be a good engineering student or a bad one, but you're always a great wise ass.
By calling this category ‘others’ I’ve done a lot of injustice to crucial elements like the flush or the wash basin. You see, their mere existence in a public restroom is a marvel in itself. And if you do find them there and functional, do yourself a favour by looking carefully at them. Why? You.don’t.wanna.know.
Special Mention : The Great Indian Railways Toilets
The Indian Railways, as I mentioned before, has taken it upon themselves to make all the municipal corporations look good. They do this Herculean task by providing us with nothing but the absolute worst service money can buy. The loo in a train tells a story as shown below:
And do not forget that these loos are used more by non ticket travelers to sleep in than for the real purpose of a loo being there. This one will be detailed in a separate article called ‘whackkiest uses of the Indian Railway toilets’. Watch this space for more. Or don’t. I just realized the immensely disgusting research that article would make me go through. My quota on loo research is over with this article.Ok bye, nature calls.