What is your instant feeling when you enter a public loo? Hope it is as clean as the one I have at home (psst…even if yours is actually not Harpic clean).
There are two kinds of loos in most Indian cities- the WC and the Indian squat (‘squat’ is my addition). For the sake of hygiene and minimum body contact, my personal pick is the Indian squat. Yes, for convenience and for all backache and medically special cases, the WC is but the obvious choice. The WC is never complete without a hand sprinkler/shower, a roll of tissues, the osmotic cistern and a dustbin. When you have one ingredient lacking it is well, ahem ahem.
The Indian squat (don’t know how it got the signature adjective- Indian) is the most exploited one. The most rudimentary form consists of a four-walled thatched enclosure at some far corner of a field, compound, pond, etc. The inside is very interesting. There are mostly two flattened metamorphic slabs handpicked from some nearby river flanking a conveniently carved/dug drain made for the purpose. There is usually an outlet to some stream, drain or unused no man’s land. Old discarded RCC pipes or PVC sheets are used to facilitate an undisturbed flow of sewage from the pot to the dumps. Some dig pits which usually take care of the compost for years. The most up-to date form, all of us know.
Public loos are the biggest blessing to the modern consumer. There are times when you have to relieve in some damn place, pretending to close your eyes like the proverbial stag that no one saw. Men have no qualms, they are biologically better blessed for such emergencies. For women, modesty and her clothes are her biggest enemies. Interestingly, I have seen a woman pedlar relieving in broad daylight in full view of the world with aplomb and panache without having to sit/squat, of course she was not wearing a panty! As kids, we hardly bothered where. While out for treks and picnics, it was girls this side and boys that side. Someone always kept guard while the rest ran behind a shrub. We forgot the sky is watching.
The loo logic for most of us is to use the 1st one or the last one for privacy’s sake. Most mall loos have partitions which are 7 inches high from the ground and stop at 3 inches above your head. So, even if you made some noise or worse still, broke air or farted you have that whatever feeling when you vacate for the next person. Studies reveal that the 1st and the last loo in a multiple loo restroom are the most germ carrying agents since they are the most used. The ones in the middle are slightly safer but in case of a toilet jam, no loo is germfree. Most loos have a caretaker who flushes, mops and does the needful. Some do it for free, some for a rupee. I always remember Mulk Raj Anand’s Bakha when I am using a public loo. I am thankful. I do get a lil’ irritated when some uncivilized freaky female for the sake of avoiding contact with the toilet seat climb on the seat and leave her sandal/shoe marks. If she is so finicky, she should carry a newspaper( like men do in the morning ablutions) if the said loo does not provide toilet disposable tissue seat covers. We can be civilised if not flexible.
Pray to your guardian gods and goddesses if your public loo is flooded with water. Some sensible water loving person just relieved on the ground and let the tap run to clear the uric stench. Somebody can slip, somebody clothes could get soiled and somebody can see who is in from the outside, thanks to the watery reflection.The takeaway is not much. We all love nice, clean loos.