I remember when I was younger, a lot of the older flats of my relatives used to have a different, unusual toilet – the squat toilet. I was staying in a newly built block and so we had the modern English toilet. The squat toilet was something odd and inconvenient.
It was only after I started solo traveling across India that I looked at our culture in a new light. I came closer to the culture of the people and could see the intimacy and joy that was possible in simple chats with strangers on the road.
This is also when I began to appreciate the squat toilet. In the most random bus stands I have used the toilets. Yes, sometimes they are unclean but the best part was, in the squat toilet only the soles of my shoes touched the toilet. In the ‘modern’ western toilet it is a lot more.
If western toilets replace the squat toilets, public bathrooms will be unusable. Recently I was frequenting an office space in Mumbai and contracted urinary infection for the first time.
Consider this –> traveling budget all over India provides better hygiene and sanitation than an urban office women’s bathroom. Many educated, urban women – don’t know how to use the western toilet.
In my last trip to Europe I understood how the western toilet makes sense there. In my solo cycling trip I camped from Berlin to Copenhagen for 17 days. I stayed at campsites where just a few toilets were shared between a lot of women & kids. It was cleaned once a day by the staff. Not once did I find the toilet seat wet, nor the toilet dirty. NOT ONCE. One of the paid public washrooms in Berlin had an automated flush system & an automated system where the toilet seat itself would rotate and get cleaned every time a person used it.
This is the level of cleanliness where the western toilet makes sense. This is the basic sense of hygiene that the common woman needs to have before you start using the western toilet.
Smartly, very smartly the Indian urban crowd has adopted the western toilet, shunning the squat toilet to be something distasteful. Difficult it is on your knees, is it? Well, funny then when scientists find the best way to shit is to squat.
All jokes aside the biggest disaster is this –> while adopting the western toilet the women or men did not deem it necessary to understand how the toilet actually works! So many women – yes urban & educated women – don’t know how to use the western toilet. They don’t know what the toilet seat is for. I know women who lift the toilet seat and then use the toilet. Most Indian bathrooms don’t have a tissue roll – so how can anyone dry the seat?!
And I have realized that this is a syndrome we people are suffering. The Indian squat toilet made sense for India. It is more hygienic especially for women and scientific for better excretion. And most importantly our people know and understand how it works. Instead it has been replaced with a western alternative – which simply doesn’t work for us. Efforts have not been made to sensitize people on how to use a western toilet & yet it is considered to be more ‘modern’ and ‘sophisticated’.
I am calling this the ‘Indian Toilet Syndrome‘, and I see it pervading a lot of spheres.
There is an epidemic of senseless actions. In Mumbai, supermarkets started a new process a while back. After you finished paying the cashier for the goods, you take the bill and the watchman will stamp it while you are leaving. If you have a bag full of goods and you don’t show a bill then he will insist that you do so.
While exiting one such supermarket I asked the watchman, “Brother, you are not checking my bag of goods. I could have anything in it, so what is the point of you just stamping this bill”. He promptly said, “there is absolutely no point.”
I find there is an epidemic of adopting senseless processes. It worries me. The lack of thought, the lack of design and lack of any reason behind activities which are being done every single day, really worries me.
What do you think?