Friday, October 28, 2011

Mallika Sarabhai's Toilet Musings

On September 17, 2011 when Narendra Modi began his fast under the Sadbhavna mission there were some who protested, some who said he was flexing his PM ambitions and some called it a 5-star fast. There was one 5-star human rights activist though who was busy doing something to prove a point. Yes! Mallika Sarabhai, the 5-star activist decided that she would feed poor slum children on that day to protest against Modi’s ‘5-star’ fast. I am wondering if that was the first time Mallika ever saw slum children from close ‘quarters’. You can usually tell human rights activists by their 'truck' – usually a very large blood-guzzling SUV.  A day later on September 18 Mallika was busy again hurling accusations against Modi of bribing her lawyers. Of course, her lawyers denied that. And then she got busy in leading a group of protestors to petition Modi about justice awaited in the 2002 riots. Then the fast was over! Modi went back to work and Mallika .. Oh I don’t know where or what she went back to.

A few days later that ‘whistler’ cop, Sanjiv Bhatt, is arrested and Mallika was back on the scene. This time she went a step further stating “even judges in Gujarat are influenced by Modi”. There are the usual SUV types like Shabnam Hashmi, Teesta Setalvad and others with Mallika with candles and balloons to support Sanjiv Bhatt. After a court battle for about 18 days Bhatt finally got bail and his family celebrated. So everyone went back and Sanjiv Bhatt went back to his family. And Mallika .. Aha! This time I know where she went and what she did. Yeah! Just like any other 5-star activist she went abroad. She dashed off to wonderful South Korea. Wonderful place to forget Modi, Bhatt and slum children. Well, didn’t quite turn out like that it seems. She had to confront the horrors of South Korean toilets. And that was enough to bring back strong toilet memories for her.

So Mallika writes the ‘Last word’ in that magazine called ‘The Week’ and it’s quite appropriately titled ‘Flushed with confusion’. For all that money I could have told Mallika that her head was flushed with confusion right here in India. Anyway, let’s understand her toilet travels… I mean toilet travails… (quotes in blue).

We were at a roadside stop, somewhere in the south of South Korea, in a very clean public toilet. I looked around the toilet stall. Behind the commode, around it, under it. No, there was no sign of a flush. By this time several other voices had joined in this chorus, each with an explanation, but no solution. At last a triumphant voice, “There is a button on the right of the door as you exit.” Phew. I hadn’t fancied leaving a clean toilet dirty for want of reading Korean”. Hmmm! Somewhere? Somewhere in South Korea? That rush to toilet must have been so bad she even forgot the name of the place. I think usually when we go into a toilet in a foreign country we carry some basic info. And discovering a flush button really can’t be part of the tour plan. But 5 star activists aren’t used to it and some poor soul had to shout ‘eureka’ there’s the flush button. Oh and I’m still wondering.. if finding a flush button would have been easier if one knew Korean I wonder how they decided the place was a toilet if it was probably written in Korean. Must be some intuition! 

Toilet House, The Museum, South Korea
Oh by the way, the Koreans (And I mean South every time I mention Korea here) absolutely love their toilets. Don’t believe me? Okay, you see this little house once belonged to someone. They had shaped it like a toilet and now it is some kind of toilet museum. I am not kidding, this toilet house is in a town called Suwon in South Korea. As a tourist Mallika should have cared to know this.. LOL!

A few days later, in the even cleaner toilets of the offices of the Korea Foundation, the Korean counterpart of Indian Council of Cultural Relations, I sat on the toilet contemplating a series of graphics. One had wavy lines, horizontally placed. The next one had dotted lines, like upward moving waves. The third one had the same but moving downwards. Knowing a couple of my colleagues were in next door stalls I mused aloud about what they meant. Pat came a reply, “Whatever you try, try it while still seated, otherwise you will get a shower.” More cautious than is my wont, I refrained”. What a pity! The Indian Council of Cultural Relations must be pulled up for sending people to places without a guide on the graphic indicators in toilets. Wavy lines, dotted lines.. now thanks to Mallika, if I ever go to South Korea I will now try them while I’m seated. But wait a minute.. those were toilets in ‘offices’ so it does surprise me why they’d have showers in there to be warned by Mallika’s toilet neighbours. I, for one, haven’t seen showers in office toilets. Alright, maybe the Koreans thought there might be special Indian guests who might even consider taking a shower while being in the toilet in their offices. Quite possible hahahha!

Japanese Toilet signs
She mentions a diplomat who had problems with a Japanese toilet. A what? Yes, a Japanese toilet. So for her benefit and that of the diplomat I’ve put up what is a Japanese toilet guide that is pretty common. Then she goes on to narrate some more experiences, some of which I prefer to censor but I couldn’t help picking on this particular experience of hers: “Then there are the automatic sensor devices. At Paris airport, this meant getting up and sitting down on the pot several times till the sensor kicked in. I tried getting up and down straight, sideways, by jumping out of the sensor’s eye.... Finally it worked, but I still haven’t figured it out”. Up, down, straight, sideways? I have imagined Mallika is a dancer and also the daughter of a famous danseuse but I certainly can’t imagine her dancing in a toilet just to get the flush going. And she says she still hasn’t figured it out. Well, there are a lot of things, like the lies, that is hard to figure about Mallika too. Of course, I don’t think the toilets of the world are in a conspiracy against her though.

And finally she says: “If my readers are surprised at the topic of this week’s column, let me tell you why these thoughts come to mind. A five-star deluxe hotel I have just checked out of, had nothing at all—no bum shower, no mug, not even the possibility of reaching the tooth glass and the water at the basin without twisting your back. Was this a plug for the (toilet) paper industry, I wondered. Or just one more way we stupidly ape the west?” No Mallika, no one is surprised at all. And not everyone stupidly apes the west. Some of us have even lived in the west without aping them. Look at the bright side Mallika, the 5-star hotel you visited could well be the equivalent of the no-star slum that goes through such things every day. You face such toilets some exciting days in your life… they do that all the time.

Okay, so next time I travel abroad I won’t ask for a travel map or guide but will first seek out Mallika and get toilet tips from her. Well, so much for our 5-star activists! Their hearts bleed for justice, for slum children, they want to see Narendra Modi hanged and what not. But they can’t even flush their own bullshit down without dancing in the toilet!


  1. why is anyone surprised? she has finally written about what she talks all the time.imagine a flush automatically washing her mouth whenever she talks.she would be drenched all the time or be forced to shut up.ah bliss !

  2. These women u know will never figure it out for themselves.
    1. The sensor for automatic flushing activates when the person is beyond certain distance away from the toilet seat. If Mallika was still lurking near the toilet, the sensor system just decided to tolerate her. Also there is a time set delay of 1-2 seconds when after the person is well beyond toilet seat, it activates.
    2. There is also a push switch/button too on the side of the sensor, to manually over-ride the sensor to do a forced flush.
    3. The muslim countries have pipe faucets / bum flush arrangements not because they are hygiene freaks but bacuase the religion requires them to wash ***** each time they take a leak. Mere toilet paper will not suffice because the possibility of a toilet paper never crossed the arabian desert dwellers' mind of 6th century and so was not taken into account while writing the 'book'.
    These women I tell you will never figure it out for themselves.

  3. Your concluding lines : But they can’t even flush their own bullshit down without dancing in the toilet!"

    There is no better way of saying the truth than in the above said words. We have 90 % of our politicians are like this and our 90 % of our urban population is the same.

    The 90 % of our rural population is no different. Hi Ram!!.

  4. Wow! Aap ne to Mallika ke dimaag pe se chaddi hi utaar di! Bechari, kuchh aur likhti, to shaayad bach jaati!!

  5. On a lateral note: Today there were all these news channels criticizing F-1 race in India for it being an elitist sport meant only for the rich. Arnab Goswami on Times, and other such channels.

    Apparently some British newspaper called it grotesque and Indian sports persons including PT Usha and Gagan Narang are frothing at the mouth.

    Arnab Goswami insinuated that if only a fraction of the F-1 money was made available to govt. hospitals, the poorest among the youngest wouldn't have died, as they did in West Bengal in the past few days/weeks.

    Mallika Sarabhai must be joining the brigade soon. Wish F-1 was happening in Gujrat. It would have been many more times entertaining!

  6. Kaha Vikram Sarabhai aur Kaha Mallika. Vikram her father launched ISRO. Mallika has stooped to low levels of writing . This is an insult to Vikram Sarabhaiw intellect. Vikrame -e- ISRO and his daughter Mallika-e-Toilet

  7. In the meantime, "Swami" Agnifake has been resurrected by the ever-obliging ELM on TV ( after his conversation with Kapil Sibal was telecast live). Now he is back seeking explanations from Team Anna. Kya circus hai!

  8. heya..once again a great revelation ...the other day i read FRONTLINE and an articl irked me i have written something about it, please reflect on it.

  9. Well, she certainly put her dancing skills to good use in the Paris toilet! Great post, especially the last sentence!

  10. Did you read this? Tarun Tejpal of Tehelka spiked a story on Goa's illegal mining because he too was building a house in Goa, bending all rules.

    The entire media circus went to town about Yeddiurappa's mining and they fell silent when the mining scam reached the congress doorsteps. And Tejpal got bought. Well, well, well !

  11. Miners should be responsible enough to use proper equipments and limit their places to where they should mine in order to keep other resources beautiful for other purposes.It is sad when the powerful politician and business tycoons use their money to do as they will. mining equipment


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