I am thinking dirty. Don’t get me otherwise. It’s just one of those memories you can’t help erasing. And it stems from a conversation the don and I shared a few days back. Well inane conversations that often crop up in between long serious talks about our lives, career and finance. I’d threatened to blog about it and here I am reliving it again! And you do need that comic relief once in a while.
For some reason, I've had one reflex action – that of bowing my head in front of temples, churches or any places of worship. I am not religious but it's perhaps a feeling of respect for the place that people deem sacred. Delhi’s architecture is funny, you have dilapidated temples (some are being reconstructed) and you have state-of-the-art toilets which are thankfully cropping up everywhere, the paid toilets where you can always do the needful if you can’t help it. I was once passing by a Sulabh toilet and bowed my head little realising it was a newly inaugurated toilet. Ever heard of anyone paying obeisance to a toilet!
But toilets bring a lot more funny memories. My early memories of toilet in my hill town Shillong was of this wooden one. Well almost every cottage had a toilet outside the house. It was unique in every sense. It was like a proper elevated box. You had to climb on top of it and underneath it was a huge bucket. Every two/three days, an old man from the Jamadar colony from Gora Lines (the colony is called by that name because most of the toilet cleaners or kharmotors lived there) used to come and empty it. A curious eight-year old, I followed the kharmotor one day. The unsuspecting man lugged the bucket, emptied in one end of the compound in a pit he had dug up near the walls, then wiped his hands with grass, smoked a bidi and walked back to place the bucket where it was. Job over, he moved to the next house to carry on his routine work for the day. If anyone was to study the evolution of toilets, he has some reference points here.
And yes, I did write about the evolution of public toilets once. So, when I was called for an interview for a Chevening scholarship, the panel of foreigners mostly, chose to begin by asking me about toilets. Why toilets? They asked me. I had to begin my explaining that my visit to one of the largest bus terminals in Delhi where half the population were urinating outside it forced me to write about toilets and why we couldn’t have public clean toilets so that one is spared the sight and stench of open urinals. For once, I had a problem sitting through an entire interview.
My few visits abroad have always been comfortable. I didn’t have to worry about walking for miles and finding a restaurant to use the loo. Public conveniences were everywhere and people used it with regard for the next user. I remember travelling to Hunter Valley near Sydney and visiting a fete in a winery. What fascinated me was the long line of caravan-looking boxes in green. Turns out they were movable toilets and pretty neat. Liquid hand wash soaps, toilet papers and a dryer equipped the boxes. Hmmm.. the comfort of living in a developed world, every need is taken care of, I thought. Contrast that to the route to one of the famous and most busy pilgrim shrines in Jammu, which attracts lakhs of tourists every year. I did the mistake of visiting the place – and walk 16 km non-stop up the shirne. Apart from the jeery youth looking for an opportunity to eve tease women, shops and more shops were set up all along the route and touts followed you like pests. Not one decent toilet along the way or in the main temple where a bath is mandatory to visit the shrine. Nightmare when I think back!
So my memories of toilet are sometimes gross, sometimes nice and most times livid!