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!