Friday, November 20, 2009

An Ode to a Toilet, A Trip Out West

Last night I found myself gazing fondly at the Indian squat toilet in my bathroom. Unlike its Western cousins, the Indian squat toilet does not have a bowl or any flushing device. It's literally a hole in the floor, connected to a pipe, which leads down through the house and into the city's sewer system. There are nice little notches for your feet to grip whilst you relieve yourself. There's also a spicket conveniently located somewhere near your left hand so that you might fill your dipper and cleanse your nether regions, which requires you to pour water over and clean yourself with your left hand. Which I know sounds gross, but here's a thought: in America, we smear our shit onto a piece of paper on a regular basis. FOUL. Toilet paper: the number one thing I dread about my re-assimilation into the Western world. Wearing deodorant again is a close second. (Yeah. I went there.)

These are my last days in Madurai: admiring toilets and biking home through shin-deep torrents of water/sewage. Oh hi, monsoon season! After Saturday night, my research assistant-cum-travel agent Rachael and I will be embarking on a magical three-week voyage of research and hair-raising debacles, sponsored by a grant from Bates. First, to Mumbai! The city Aldous Huxley called "the worst of any hemisphere!" (Mumbai '09, no parents!) Then, to Gujarat, which the guide books call the Wild West of India! Where we will (hopefully) talk with tribal women about the significance of their tattoos and piercings, and where we will spend a magical Thanksgiving staying at a palace! Then finally, to Rajasthan, where we will interview women who work in beauty parlours about modern female adornment and its connection to female empowerment! Look at my excellent use of key sociologist phrases!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Anyway. The North is supposedly a might more sketch than the South, so I plan on whipping out my pocket knife on every night train and cleaning the blades in front of all the passengers. THAT'S RIGHT, Y'ALL. I GOT A KNIFE WITH WHICH TO SHANK YO ASS.

And finally: happy birthday, Mom! Happy belated birthday, Dad! And Happy Thanksgiving to all you turkey and tofurkey lovers!


  1. Wow, pretty sure I've never seen someone work "whilst" and "shank yo ass" into the same three paragraphs before. I suppose the phrase "bridging British and American literature" has never before been so vividly captured...

    And talk about a demonstration of faith in the academic research process - Bates funded you wandering northern India. I can only imagine the performance art that will be the report on that research. Just think, 50 years from now sociologists visiting the region will discover bizarre tales of a stream-of-consciousness-yabbering American woman wearing green Chuck Taylor high-tops covered with quotes from LOTR and Harry Potter. I've always wondered about the origins of tales of alien visitations depicted by cave drawings in southern Europe. Now I know they are probably the results of traveling undergrads funded by university research grants...

  2. Umm at least you don't have to wipe your ass with toilet paper and then throw it into a trash can next to the toilet because the sewage pipes are too small to handle toilet paper. Now THAT is gross.

    I hope your travels go well! And I'm glad Bates is paying for them, haha. Remember if you get into trouble JUST YELL FIRE! Love you and miss you!

  3. Bridget, I love you. Period.

    I was totally thinking about the sordid nature of toliet paper the other day. If Conrad wrote a book about this, it would be to prove the the savage nature of the western man's handling of his bowel movements.

    (Sorry - I have to read Heart of the Darkness from English)