Today was yet another holiday in India…the land of constant festivals! Today was Lord Krishna’s birthday – an important God in the Hindu religion. The festival is called Janmashtami – and it basically means that I had the day off of work. It’s strange – I don’t think I’ve ever had a job in my life in which I was upset that I had a day off. However, since my time here teaching the kids is limited – I’d much prefer to be working with them instead of having a free day. Since we all had a free day my roommates and I planned a day out in Delhi. I was very excited about this outing because we were going to go to a museum that I had been anticipating seeing for quite some time now…The International Toilet Museum! I had read about this gem of a site in the Lonely Planet book, and I was hooked…I HAD to see it! Luckily my roommates shared the same sick humor that I did and they were up for the adventure too. In a country in which you spend a great deal of time on the toilet, smelling the toilet, and seeing people ‘use the toilet’ in public – this museum seemed like a perfect fit for India!
The museum was in South Delhi among a poor community. There was a cloud of dust in the air from the dirt road that ran outside the museum grounds. The museum was surrounded by a large white gate and wall, and when we went through the gate, we were welcomed into this pristine oasis of green grass and white buildings. It was as if we had just walked through a portal from dirty, grimy Delhi, to heaven…toilet heaven.
Photo: The Crap Lab
I thought this would just be a funny little museum where I would get to see many toilets – however I was surprised to find out that it was much more than that. Sulabh Toilet Museum was actually a part of the Worldwide Sulabh Sanitation Movement and NGO. It is the 7th largest NGO in the world and we were standing at its world headquarters. They focus on providing sanitation solutions to India, and other countries. Sanitation solutions include environmentally friendly by products such as manure for fertilizer, methane gas, and water to be used for everything except drinking. They also educate the impoverished on sanitation and build public toilets all over Delhi and India. Granted, educating kids in English and computers is important – however educating the public on sanitation is even more important for a country like India – a country with 1.2 billion people, a country where about 75% of those people don’t even have access to a toilet. I was extremely impressed by this organization.
A man came and provided us a personal tour of the museum showing us how over 4,500 years ago they had villages/towns laid out with sanitation in mind. Unfortunately, somewhere along the way of expanding population, India lost this sanitation forethought. We saw toilets through history, royal toilets, temporary toilets, disguised toilets, and portable toilets. We discussed the touchy subjects of squatty potties, using toilet paper or not, budays, compost, golden toilets, why people pee outside, how to make yourself ‘go’, how to not make yourself ‘go’, and the ever important subject of how women can pee standing up. It was a very fun and educational experience!
One of the most important things that Sulabh does is build large public toilets throughout India – one with a sewage treatment on site. The facilities are completely powered and run by the methane gas. The public toilets are built with the poor and homeless in mind. They are used by more than 1000 people per day…which barely scratches the surface in India. After being here for 3 weeks, you grow accustomed to men relieving themselves everywhere and anywhere in public…it’s a strange site and it seems to be accepted here. However, you never really get used to the smell of urine – so strong in some areas that you feel like you are going to pass out. There are public toilets in Delhi –however they are few and far between and they are not cleaned often enough – so that basically leaves people to fend for themselves. Therefore, I’m definitely in favor of any organization that is trying to educate people and improve the situation here!
All in all, it was a fun day off – even though is was full of a lot of crap!
Photo: Me enjoying the Toilet Museum!