Tourists coming to India will have their first culture shock when they come out of the airport. First thing they will notice that India is one crowded country, too many people walking around, people wanting to talk to you or staring at you, some even offering you to take you to hotels and so on.
The second shock comes in quite unexpected. As soon as you walk in a public toilet you will notice that toilets are different to what they are used to. You may not notice this at the hotel as most hotels will have western style toilets. Depending what part of the world you are coming from, you will notice that the Indian toilets are like a hole in the ground. It’s not exactly the same as the pit latrines or the makeshift squat-holes you will find in sub-Saharan Africa but close. But there you have it, these are the traditional latrines used in all over India. You will find these types of squat toilets in many places in India including trains. Unless you are travelling on the Maharaja express you are bound to encounter squat toilets.
You will be forgiven to think, how on earth people take their dump. First things first, don’t panic, it’s quite simple. Also known as the squat toilets, they are pretty simple to use. It’s used in many countries around the world including Japan.
How to use the Indian toilet
All you need to do is take your pants down, yes take them all down including your undergarments and hang them on the hook on the toilet door. Make sure they are hung properly otherwise they might drop and get wet or dirty. You can always pull them half down to the knees but there is a remote possibility of getting them wet even soiled if you haven’t done this before.
Then sit down on the ceramic commode in a squat position. This goes for both men and women. You will require the extensive use of muscles, hamstrings, tendons and ligaments. They will include hip flexors and extensors, knee flexors and extensors, lateral and medial hip rotators. It’s a good exercise, wouldn’t you say. It sure will make you fit in no time. Think of it like the gym lifting Olympic weights sitting across your shoulders in a squat position. Those are half squats, now just be brave and get down to your knees and perform the full squat. So you see, there are natural benefits of squatting as well. It might be uncomfortable in the beginning but believe me, it’s not that bad, and you might even like it. It’s all about practice. Anyway, take a dump. Try to aim in the hole.
Oh by the way, make sure before you couch down that there is a bucket of water in the bathroom otherwise you are out of luck. Indians like to use water rather than toilet paper and it is unlikely that you will find a bidet in a public location. Anyway, fill the mug of water and wash your backside with your left hand with multiple washes and make sure it’s thoroughly washed. It may seem strange at first washing your own backside with your hand, but that’s the way majority of the Indians do it. If this is your first time, you might even like it and discover something you never knew about yourself.
As a matter of fact, squatting is a good you. It has been suggested that those using the squat toilets are less likely to suffer from colon cancer. The rationale behind is that squatting empties the bowels completely while in the western styles, some crap remains in the colon and over a period of time it stiffens leading to cancer of the bowel (sorry no references).
Now get up, pull the flush chain, and wash your hands in the sink. It might be a little difficult to stand up from the squat or crouch. Often you might not find soap as health and hygienic education is poor in India. You should have checked this before you couched down. This is what I call tough luck.
If you did find soap or you’ve got your own, wash your hands thoroughly. You might need to wash several times to wash the faecal matter off your hands. Now you’re done. Put your pants back on and walk out and enjoy the rest of the day.
Don’t let cultural factors ruin your latrine use. I would like to hear about your experiences of your stay in India and your use of Indian toilets.