The evolution of toilets

[Warning: This is a long and boring article and requires holding of your nose at times.]

I know this is a touchy subject and we find it obnoxious to talk of our toilet habits. But let us do it today!

Indians have always mingled with nature to answer nature`s call. It seems Sher Shah Suri had one section of his courtyard dedicated only to relieve himself. King Chandra Gupta Maurya always had one assistant stand close with a copper utensil full of water…even as two of his security men stood on two sides. Akbar, the king who was always late (even today he is known as Late Akbar), used to be so shy that he changed his dressing style to suit his toilet habits. He shifted to skirts because they were more comfortable while attending to nature`s call.

If the kings had their whims, the commoners had their fancies. In those days, water management had not evolved as a science…and hence all the ponds and lakes were full of water. The commoner had to visit a barren patch near a water body and relieve himself. It was the case of two birds with one stone – fertilize the barren land too!

This was around the same time that the phrase “I am in deep shit” came to be used commonly.

Most weathermen of those times started depending on their early morning missions for their weather predictions. History books say unlike the weatherman of today, during ‘shit-in-the-outside` time weathermen used to be exact. They would use their bums to find the wind`s direction and humidity levels, and deduce the inference. Since the weathermen`s bums were mostly clothed…when unclothed…they were sensitive to small differences in weather conditions…hence the success rate.

It took a long while coming for Indians to graduate from the sit-on-the grass-and-get-your bum tickled to use-the-shared-toilets. I know…using a lawn mower would have been easy…but there is no explanation as to why Indians shifted to shared toilets. In the evenings, people would have community dinner…and in the morning it would be time for community toilets.

With time, people realized that it wasn`t a great scene to be seen waiting with a lota outside a half broken door that belonged to the single community toilet of their area. Nobody cleaned it…nobody repaired it…in short it was nobody`s baby. This necessitated building ‘owned` toilets.

There was no way a puja room, kitchen and a toilet could co-exist in the same house. It was against religion…and was not practical. So the first toilets for households appeared outside of the house…but within the compound wall. Now, they didn`t have to wait in the queue and the experience was a bit more hygienic. With time, another issue propped up. What happens when a 19-year old girl wants to visit the toilet at 1 a.m.? Won`t it be risky to let her go out alone? And if the 50-year old bandit Raghvendra Yadav was out of jail it was dangerous even for the 40-year-old ladies.

The man of the house decided to build a toilet inside and cut down the risk to his life. Since those were the days of bandits….soon all households had a toilet inside. They were placed as further away from the puja room and kitchen as possible. Soon enough the logic that if you can shit inside your house….you might as well take bath struck a chord. Enter bathrooms.

The 19-year-old girl for whom the toilet (and later bathroom) was brought into the house…was now 24 years old and married. She would occasionally come home – with her husband. During her visits she and her husband would sleep in the hall, while the parents slept in the adjoining room. The door between them would be closed…for obvious reasons. With the door to the toilet closed, the parents didn`t have a toilet to relieve themselves. Having been used to the luxury…now it was difficult to hold one`s bladder through out the night. Enter the attached bathroom.

Things have changed quite a bit from the first attached bathroom. Last week …when Rekha and I visited a model flat (costing 56 lakhs…the reason why we ran away from there)…it had four bathrooms. And each bathroom was the size of our current bedroom.

Had we signed on for that house, we would have been in deep shit!


After reading this treatise, Thebluefactor has left a comment which has opened my eyes. Here is his comment –

“Good one, you forgot to delve on western style and how India integrated the hand shower into western style potty. I was surprised to see that last time I visited the great land.”

How could I have missed out these details. As punishment, I have decided to abstain myself from the bathroom for the next three days.

Now about their origin…. The Western Style lavatories took time coming to India. Probably because the potty were always made of ceramic…and would sink in the Indian ocean/Arabian Sea that separated the Western world and India. Some even say that the ceramic potty sunk in the ocean because it didn`t know swimming.

But seriously, in the west, this style of potty was invented because they always wore trousers, belts…and carried huge wallets…and had a holster with two pistols hanging by the side. Now, imagine somebody sitting on an Indian toilet with all this paraphernalia! As if this constraint was not enough… the Westerners didn`t have schools where teachers asked you to stand on your knees for half the day…thus all grew up without strong knees – a pre-requisite for successful completion of nature`s call in an Indian styled toilet.

As for the integration of the hand shower into the Western style potty in India…. I would blame it on the importance we give to paper. Since, it was not good for Saraswathi…toilet paper never sold well in India.

And thanks to the item girl of yesteryears…Helen…showers were popular in the 70s. So much so…builders started considering taps as a waste of money. It was around this time that the Western Style potty entered India. With no toilet paper, everybody looked for the tap…but there were none. Their next stop was the showers…but with the showers placed a clear seven feet above the ground…aiming was difficult…everybody got drenched in the downpour. One such user who was forced to combine shitting and bathing because he got drenched everytime he shat…. decided to reduce the height of the shower…and give it some flexibility…and use it for the right purpose.

Man…this place stinks!

By Jamshed V Rajan

Jammy, as Jamshed V Rajan is affectionately called, is a wannabe stand up comedian. He has a funny take on most things but documents only some of them. If you are interested in chatting up with him, do drop him an email at or message him at +919650080255.

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