Thursday, July 9, 2009

Of Toilet Paper & Water

"People in India don't use toilet paper," Nita Kumar told us on our first day here.

I didn't have the courage to ask exactly what they use in place of toilet paper, if anything.

Now I know: water.

There's a little spigot on the floor next to most toilets, as well as a small red or pink plastic one-quart pitcher.

Apparently one washes off with the water (exactly how--with hand or not--I don't yet know) and then walks away.

There is no need to dry off--you are probably dripping with sweat anyway. My underpants and bra and shirt have been soaked with sweat all day. It is pleasantly cool about 5-7 am... then before 8 am breakfast my forehead, face, and torso start dripping with sweat.

In fact, most Indian women don't even wear underpants--so air-drying works. Middle- and upper-class folk are switching to Western-style underwear.

I think men wear either a white underwrap or a little thong attached to a string around the waist--from my observation at the bathing scenes at the Ganges.

On the positive side, the sweat dries off.

In our three bathrooms at the NIRMAN Guest House, toilet paper is provided. I feel grateful. Poor people living in one-room houses or hovels now have the opportunity to pay one rupee to use a local public toilet built by NGOs. We went to visit one of these homes on Tuesday--the cook's home who prepares our food.

It took me a few days to reach the point of feeling grateful. At first, the washroom near me in the guest house was a shock.
--no running water in the shower. I use one of the other two washrooms.
--barely a trickle in the sink. If I get more, I find myself saying "Wow!"
--no electricity most of the time. It's best at night when NIRMAN runs a converter (stored energy from when the town's electricity was on).

If I turn on a light switch and get light, I find myself again saying "Wow!"

Note: by staying at elegant international hotels, you can have "Western-style" bathrooms and all the luxuries. We stayed in two private homes and an ashram-like guest house.

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