The Indian Toilet

The Indian people call our toilet a “western toilet” — one where you can properly sit.  Well the Indian toilet is a bit different.  A “squat” position is necessary to take care of business with the Indian toilet.  If traveling around India, it is one of those dreaded things to encounter as a westerner.

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This is the toilet that our drivers and guards use that is in the back of our building complex.

Let me explain how it works:

  1. Pour a little water down the hole before you begin  It helps with the cleanup afterwards.
  2. Place both feet firmly on the grated section of the toilet.
  3. Squat over the hole.
  4. There is no toilet paper.  A water hose or bucket is usually nearby to help with the cleaning process.  According to what I have read about the process, it is claimed that using the water is much more sanitary than using toilet paper.
  5. This toilet has a flushing handle available.  In some toilets, it is just the hose you use to spray the remains down the hole.
  6. If you are lucky, you might find a sink to rinse your hands, but I have yet to see one with soap and towels available.

Up until this point, I have been fortunate enough to not have to use one, but I have had to help Hailey use one when we were at Nai Disha a few months back.  She and I had a really good laugh at it and I wonder how either of us would really ever be able to do it without someone to help us steady our self during the “squat”.  It was an experience that Hailey does not look forward to ever having to repeat.  Fortunately, I had a few tissues that helped with the cleanup.

Sanitation facilities are a huge issue here in India.  That became evident to us the first hour after arrival as we drove from the airport.  According to a government census done a couple of years ago, nearly half of India’s households do not have a toilet.  It is not that they do not want to have a toilet, it is merely that there are no sewer pipes available to install the toilets.  India does not have many sewage treatment plants (of the 7,935 towns in India, only 162 have sewage treatment plants, according to WHO) and they lack the infrastructure to make it possible for more toilets to be placed.  To put it in perspective, according to the World Health Organization (WHO) two years ago, 53% of Indians have mobile phones but only 46% have toilet facilities.  As you drive past slum housing, you can see the satellite dishes all over the tops of these areas, but they lack sanitation facilities.

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This was taken while driving home from school in the car.  It is such a commonplace thing to see, someone relieving themselves, but one that I will never get used to.

So what does an Indian do if there is no toilet option?  Well for the millions (estimated 625 million to be exact according to WHO), open areas are the only toilet option.  Thus the reason that every road you drive down, you see a man urinating.  It is a constant reminder of the lack of sanitation facilities here in India.  I recently read an article in the newspaper here about how the lack of public facilities for women is even greater.  According to the article, Delhi has 4,000 odd public toilets, but less than 350 were for women.  Now, I don’t know about you, but for me it’s always the women’s restrooms that have the line coming out the door.  I would have thought it would have been a little more even in numbers.

There are some great non-profit organizations that continue to work in bringing toilet facilities to so many people here.  Until you have visited here, to understand just the pure numbers of people that live here is hard to comprehend but what better thing to provide to a community than sanitary waste facilities.  The amount of health issues that arrive from this, must be very large.

As for me, I am dreading the day that I do need to use that “squat” toilet.  I prefer the “western toilet” by far, including the toilet paper, soap and water that accompany it.

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2 thoughts on “The Indian Toilet

  1. Christian

    When I go potty before bed tonight, I think I’m going to pray an extra prayer of thanks for my porcelain bowl…and paper…and soap…and sink…and…and…and. ; )

    Reply
  2. Dean Ossola

    If Bill Gates thinks toilet technology is important, so do I! The Gates Foundation recently hosted a community toilet design competition to reduce disease in struggling countries and there were some very novel designs as you might imagine… All of which were completely self-contained units. Some of these appeared to be better solutions than we even have in western recreational vehicles and boats!

    Reply

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