Why you should be grateful that you weren’t born in the 1300’s.
Shit. We use the word enough in our day-to-day life, but we don’t really like talking about it. I was trying to search for some interesting, quick-witted phrases or historical anecdotes about actual shit to share in this story. But in vain. I could find absolutely no literature on that or toilets. No Ode to the burdened privy or Ballad of Lonely John.
People tell me I have a shitty sense of what's interesting. Case in point: The one time I tried to squeeze an anecdote in (out?) at a work lunch.
So yesterday, there was this woman on my train to Andheri and she was squatting beside the door. She got up and off at Bandra, but do you know what she left behind?
A huge turd. And the first thing this other woman asks is "Arrey isne itne jaldi kaise kar liya?"
But they didn't think it was funny. No
Faces scrunched, they shut their tiffins and made a mental note to avoid me at lunch the next day.
Entrance to the museum in Dwarka
Ingestion and excrement do not really go well in the same conversation, but it has always provided me the perfect opportunity to indulge my fondness for grossing people out. I’m always on the prowl for fodder to fuel this hobby. So when I learned that Delhi had a toilet museum, I was shivering with excitement. Even the fact that it showed up on the other end of the city in some gaon-type area on my google map, could not spoil it for me.I finally got there following a long metro and rickshaw ride on deserted roads. It was 46 degrees outside, which I got to know later was one of the hottest days that summer. And there it was, nestled in the badlands of Dwarka, the Sulabh International Toilet Museum.
Model of a toilet complex for managers above and employees below
And so began my education in the art of shitting, and man was it full of revelations. The museum was smaller than you would imagine but followed the evolution of toilets, from Mohenjo Daro to the automatic ass-washing toilets of Japan. This is what I learned:
Do you look before you flush?
My first revelation was that till about 1840s there were no flush toilets. That meant that it was fucking difficult to take a dump or a leak till just about 170 years ago, and 10 times more for women. You usually couldn’t go in public and even at home you had to be rich enough to have someone empty out your chamber pot, bucket or shit pan for you.
It's a shitstorm out there
Second was that humans are idiots. Leonardo da Vinci and this person called John Harrington were said to have invented the flush toilet design in 1500 but for some reason people thought they were crazy. They ignored them for 300 years and continued allegedly throwing shit out of their window on to the street to be swept up later.
Book shelf type French toilet with a bucket below
King Louis the XIV loved shitting so much he would write letters, see visitors and even eat his meals on his night commode. When he was done, he had the habit of passing his shit pan under the noses of the whole company so that one could go empty it.
No shit, no disease? No shit
The black death of 1346 which killed an estimate of 200 million people in Europe and a number of other plagues were propounded because of the shoddy disposal of shit at the time.
What's in a name
The guy who owned one of the first bathroom fixture companies, was called Thomas Crapper. That might have been where the phrase ‘Going to the crapper’ and the word crap came from. He also invented something called the ballcock. Yes you heard right. You might have seen it, because it is that weird balloon like device that stops your flush tank from overflowing.
Playing hardball with human excreta
Also contrary to what most of us think we know, the common Sulabh Sauchalayas were not made by the government but by one of India’s oldest NGOs called Sulabh International. It was birthed in 1970 by social reformer Bindeshwar Pathak in order to push for the abolishment of manual scavenging, which was still very prevalent then. Manual scavenging basically involved people of lower caste collecting shit from upper caste people’s houses and transporting them to a disposal location away from residential areas. The instruments of choice were bucket, basket and broom.
Although they’ve contributed considerably to the sanitation scene, their most underrated project of all is the Sulabh International Museum of Toilets. It is the only toilet museum in the world and was amongst TIME magazine’s 10 weirdest museums, yet it hardly receives any visitors. What a shame. More than anything this visit definitely spurred a renewed respect for bodily emissions. I realized that taking a dump or pissing for that matter is one of the most satisfying feelings you experience on a daily basis. Especially when the build-up is long enough. That completely orgasmic feeling when you let go, your kidneys and intestines humming with pleasure.
Speaking of which, my Isabgol seems to have done it's job - I'm off to enjoy one of life's most underrated pleasures. I'll leave you with this though, something to chuckle over, the next time you're unloading:
I am arrive by passenger train ahmedpur station and my belly is too much swelling with jackfruit. I am therefor went to privy. Just I doing the nuisance that guard making whistle blow for train to go off and I am running with lotah in one hand and dhoti in the next when I am fall over and expose all my shocking to man and female women on platform. I am got leaved Ahmedpur station. This is too much bad, if passenger go to make dung that dam guard not wait train minutes for him. I am therefor pray your honour to make big fine on that guard for public sake. Otherwise I am making big report to papers.
Your’s faithfully servent
Okhil Ch. Sen
(A letter of complaint dated 2nd July 1909 from Mr Okhil Chandra Sen written to the Divisional Railway Office Sahibganj, Bengal that apparently led to the provision of toilets in railway coaches.)
Smell you later.
Toilet brush art
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are independent views solely of the author(s) expressed in their private capacity and do not in any way represent or reflect the views of 101India.com.
By Karishma Goenka
Photographs by: Karishma Goenka