Life's Like That

Friday, July 11, 2008

Loo-y tunes

Warning: Very long and revolting post ahead. Do not read if you have just had or are about to have a meal or if you are generally the delicate kinds who do not appreciate such descriptions.

Its 2.30 p.m on a Friday afternoon. I have just had a rather horrible lunch at Nandhini involving rice (which I suspect they cooked with soda) and SPICY accompaniments, and while my stomach feels like I set it on fire, I am also terrifically sleepy. I want it to be the weekend already. But anyways, I was thinking of the morning after effects of eating food cooked mainly in red chilly paste and that got me thinking about loos and then about my experience with them.

After graduation, I decided to do my Masters at the University of Hyderabad. Since the damn place was far removed from civilization, I had to live in the hostel. When I arrived in Hyderabad to pay my fees and start classes, for the first couple of days I stayed with Daddy at the ITC Kakatiya Hotel in 5 star luxury. And then I moved into the hostel! I very nearly burst into tears on seeing the loo that first day. First the description:

The hostel was divided into wings and each wing had 5 rooms and each room housed 2 girls. So 10 girls to one loo and one bathroom. The loo was about half the size of a telephone booth with no light and no flush. When you sat on the western style pot (or as in my case, perched precariously on it since the surface was black and one did not want to contract any skin ailments from it) your knees touched the door. As I said, it did not have a flush, a FILTHY half broken bucket was provided instead. The bathroom door could not be shut, one closed it and then a pushed this large moss covered rock with ones foot against it to keep it closed. And then one bathed. Taking care that no part of one’s exposed skin touched any surface other than the taps. Yes I wore rubber chappals to the bath. There was no question of going about barefoot anywhere in that hostel.

When I tearfully told my Dad about the loo conditions he started off about the loos in his hostel and the unsanitary habits of young men. He was confident that girls could never be half as dirty as boys. Well, Dad, now that I have recovered from the traumas associated with that loo, I BEG TO DIFFER. Let’s just say I quickly learnt to wait till my room mate (an extraordinary being) and ran a check; to decide if I wanted to risk it. Sometimes, I just didn’t go till I reached the city (our classes were held in the city) and then quickly visited Taj Banjara (I became somewhat of an expert in marching into 5 star hotels confidently, using the facilities and then marching out equally confidently.) Sometimes, unfortunately my extraordinary roomie was not around and I soon got used to the various amounts, colours and consistencies that greeted me. Over time I even got used to flushing other people’s messes away. To this day I’m not very troubled by a dirty loo, I have learnt to block it all out.

It was in Hyderabad that I discovered that the great wild outdoors is a cleaner place to go about answering Natures calls. No I did not go about squatting wherever I wanted…told you I visited Taj Banjara. But umm…HCU was a HUGE place with forests and lakes and peacocks and wild boar and very little in terms of recreation. So we would slip off to one of the lakes, hide behind some strategically placed rocks and umm….partake of some bottled and errr…rolled up “entertainment”. The rocks were far away from the hostels (that was the main point see) and of course overly “entertained” that we were, we couldn’t have walked back even if we wanted. So I learnt to go out in the open. Good thing I was quite “entertained”, sober I think I’d be too worried about snakes and scorpions and what not. We took turns. And I always made sure that RS went before me, so that if any slithery things were about they would attack her first. Heh. Maybe I wasn’t that drunk.

Thankfully I moved back home after some time and the loo situation naturally improved. I avoid train loos and such like. But then as I said, confronted with toilet atrocities I can pretty much block it all out. Ooh but I lived in Bombay for a while.

I hate Bombay. It’s the only city I have ever been to where people use main roads as their personal toilets. All the bloody time!!! Traveling by train? You will see some shitting on the tracks. Visiting the mall? In all likelihood there will be some people pottying nearby. I worked in Dadar. On Senapati Bapat Marg, just after where the flyover ended. Every morning when I walked to office from the station, I would see a row of people squatting on one side of the road. When it rained they would squat with umbrellas. The women covered their faces!!!! The men...well I tried not to look at any of them. But the point was that when it rained the water swirled right past them and their potty, past my feet into what I hope was a drain. I kept a bottle of Dettol soap at work, and washed my feet footwear and all the moment I reached office.

Bombay was also the place where I completely embarrassed myself. I was following a friends feet at the Marine Lines station (it was the only part of him that I could see…he was wearing terribly bright shoes) and when his feet walked up these white tiled stairs I naturally followed. My nostrils gave warning about the place I was walking into but my brains and legs didn’t seem to register. A second too late I looked up to see my friend staring at me aghast. A variety of short tall fat thin well dressed badly dressed balding hairy men were also staring at me, some amused, some embarrassed, some horrified. Some horrifically for me, had turned around to see me and in their excitement had forgotten to zip up. I didn’t run from the place. I said “Oh I’m terribly sorry, excuse me, please, continue” and walked out in a very dignified manner. My friend refused to go anywhere with me for a very long time. Sigh.

I have managed to make myself feel ill with all these memories. Gross it all was. Why I just wrote such a long post on something so disgusting I don’t know. As it is people hardly read this blog anymore. With this post, the 2 readers I have left will also abandon me. My next post will be much nicer and totally yuck free. Prrrrroommiiise.