We Indians don’t know how to use toilets.

I avoid using the men’s room in public places, and when I entered the loo at the office the other day, I was reminded why. I was assaulted by the sight of water all around the stall…..it was like someone had had a frigging shower in there. There were shoe-marks on the seat and some stubborn crap had resisted the flush’s onslaught and tenaciously clung on to the inside of the bowl.

I mean, is shitting in a socially-friendly way really beyond us? Can’t we show some more concern for our fellow-citizens?

Think I’m exaggerating? Do any of you remember the toilets in Indian trains? The squatting ones are actually marginally better than the seats….though you have to be careful……we don’t seem to have too much of an aim at the best of times, and in a moving train, we splatter our turds everywhere but the ceiling. There’s a hand-grip screwed into the wall in front of you, and you’re supposed to hold tight (for the hypochondriacs – think of all the dirty hands that have gripped it before you!) and let yourself go. If you’re fortunate, some wise-ass (no pun intended) hasn’t dumped on the slightly elevated parts where you’re supposed to plant your feet. And there’s the apparatus (for lack of a better word) itself, once bright and shiny, the colour of new steel, now a palette of strange yellow and brown stains…..yup, it is painful. And if all that doesn’t get you, the constant inhalation of ammonia will! Of course the faucet has no water, and there’s no roll. So the newspaper will have to do…..if you had the foresight to carry it. Good luck if you didn’t.

If you are unfortunate enough to have to go to a toilet with a seat in it in an Indian train, you’re fucked. To begin with, we don’t sit on the pot like we’re supposed to. We squat on the rim; if we’re considerate, we squat with the seat up, but mostly – as much out of spite for those who may want to sit after us as for reasons of a better foothold – we squat with the seat down. The better foothold is important, particularly given the sway-lurch movements of the train, where a sudden acceleration or deceleration will have your leg in the pot, amidst freshly spattered shit, semi-fossilised tatti and some ancient stubborn fungoid goob….not a very pleasant thing.

Think that’s the worst of it? You haven’t seen toilets in non-mobile establishments then, where some twit installed a pot without checking if there was a regular water supply (if there is regular water supply, the flush doesn’t work)…..which means that the tatti piles up, the place stinks, and you squat there, perched a few inches above some very serious shit….in a restaurant, you can probably kill time by identifying what previous incumbents of the seat have eaten – in my experience, peas, the seeds of bhindi and tomato and the like are very easy to identify…..along with methi and saag. And somehow, even without the miracle of regular water-supply, the floor looks like someone’s just had a shower.

It’s enough to make you anal-retentive.