When I was with Indian Express, I didn`t find their office toilets great. They were very average.
After two years with IE, I tagged on to my Indian Express Sports Editor Anand Philar and World Billiards Champion Geet Sethi and joined their start-up kheladi.com in Chennai. Since we worked out of a house the two toilets were good enough. Just that when I got up from my seat, the whole office (five young strapping men) knew that I was going to the loo.
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When I joined Sify I was in for a treat. The first time I entered the men`s loo in Tidel Park, Chennai I was shocked. I remember asking myself: “Wow…why isn`t my bedroom like this?”
The floor was sparkling clean. The washbasins had chrome finish (as if they were Harley Davidsons) and black granite surroundings. The huge mirrors displayed a very handsome me made handsomer by the light shining right on top of the mirror. The shoe-shiner in the corner was at work – somebody was shining his shoes. The hand dryer was at work too.
I remember hating my house from then on. In contrast, my 2 feet by 2 feet toilet on the top floor had no roof. Leaves from the nearby trees would regularly fall within the three walls and clog the potty. We didn`t really mind till one day…a coconut tree`s leaf fell while I was inside. It hurt.
Today the clean toilets are taken for granted but it was not always so. Instead of using sand, leaves stone, grass etc by 1857 people who could afford it, started using toilet paper. Joseph Cayetty of USA was to be blamed for it was he who invented it.
Coincidentally, the first Indian war of Independence was also fought in 1857. For the not so suspicious there no connection…but I would say that the British were getting their ass kicked so fine that they funded a research on toilet paper.
Though Cayetty had invented toilet paper, Indians continued to be insensitive to others` nostrils for a long time. In 1878, India`s first sanitation bill was introduced. According to this law it was compulsory to build toilets if you were building a house. Even the huts in Calcutta (which was then the Indian capital) were not sparred.
The next watershed (pun intended) in the history of toilets was when the Indian Government introduced a law which banned construction of dry latrine and its manual cleaning. Surprisingly, this bill was operative only from 1993! Too late!
I wouldn`t have realized how lucky I was if not for this young friend of mine from Madurai who had come down to my office for an interview. I picked him up from the reception and on the way up asked him: “So, would you want to freshen up?”
He said: “Yes.”
Thinking he would like to wash his face and comb his hair, I took him to the washroom. As soon as we entered, he saw the row of washbasins (fully decked up in chrome and granite) and said: “I will have coffee. You can have your breakfast if you want.” He then proceeded to wash his hands.
It took me a while to understand. He had completely missed the “Men`s Washroom” board on the door and looking at the fancy washbasin thought it was the office restaurant.
I had to think fast. I couldn`t afford to bring down his confidence levels just before his interview. I had to somehow take him out of the washroom.
“What do you want for breakfast?” I asked him even as I washed my hands.
“Coffee will be fine for me. As I said, you can have your breakfast.”
This was the break I was looking for….
“Shucks…I also want only Coffee. In which case, it is better to go down to the second cafeteria…where we get great filter coffee.”
Ina few seconds we were outside the washroom, and in a few minutes, which seemed like hours, we were in the cafeteria.
I had done my good deed for the day. If he gets recruited, he will find out the washroom! But then, shit happens….