Monday, July 14, 1997

Skipping to the loo

Sometimes people ask me how I can write about myself and my family, and events closely connected with daily happenings in our lives, with such equanimity. It’s just a job, I explain to them loftily, with a hint of sophisticated boredom underlying. Sometimes I confess that I am, basically, an exhibitionist. But this doesn’t stop more questions. Why, they want to know, am I always writing about the toilet?
The fact is, not many people use the toilet as their source of inspiration – unless you count those who get their brilliant ideas while sitting on the throne. Really, nobody writes about toilets. I remember as a child, wondering why Enid Blyton never mentioned one, whether houses in England had any at all? I mean, where on earth did all those biscuits, lemonade and cream teas ultimately get to and where, for god’s sake, in The Cave of Adventure did they GO?
Travelling is a great one for discovering new kinds of toilets, and finding old kinds in the oddest places. When I visited Malyasia in 1992, for instance, I was not surprised to find Indian Style proliferating in the countryside. But it amazed me to find one, in 1982, on the top of St Paul’s cathedral in Rome. And once, I sat in a jungle boat up the river to Chiang Rai which is in the north of Thailand, where the borders of Laos and Burma converge in a lush, scenic area known as the Golden Triangle. It was a fabulous journey, nature in the raw, but I’m afraid I didn’t enjoy it at all because my bladder was screaming for release. To make things worse, the canoe had a leak and the dozen or so people making the journey were sitting in two inches of water, with one person continuously bailing out. The only reason I didn’t go right there in my jeans was that I didn’t have another pair to change into once I got to Chiang Rai.
So there you have all the ingredients of a bestseller – action, drama and culture. Not romance, though – even I am not that exhibitionistic.
Some parts of this appeared in  Maharashtra Herald as ‘Loo behold!’ on 13 Jul 1997