If you have ever visited the toilet on an Indian Railway compartment, you’ll vouch for the fact that it’s not a case of simple bowel movement that we’re talking of here.
Visiting the toilet on an Indian train is akin to embarking on a hike to Mount Everest. It is the same as crossing the English Channel after a lunch of beer and biryani.
Firstly, there’s the food that trains offer. We have had Railway ministers from Laloo Prasad Yadav to Mamta Banerjee to Suresh Prabhu, promising us more bang for our buck on trains, but we all know that’s far from happening any time soon.
It must be mentioned here that if you have money and can afford an AC compartment, there’s at least an attendant cleaning up after you spill groundnut shells all around with the elegance of King Kong.
However, if life wasn’t so gracious to you, and you possess a Sleeper class ticket, the aforementioned Mount Everest hike is in store for you. And the food doesn’t help matters one bit.
The items that need masala have no spices in them – it’s like the Portuguese never landed in Kerala in the first place! And the dishes that you expect to be regular, domestic items are so explosive, you wonder if they were made in Sivakasi.
Add to this the incessant cries of samosas, chips and bhel-puri, and there’s a sinful orgy going on in your belly. And before you know it, it arrives. A missed call from Mother Nature, telling you “ki beta, it’s time you paid a visit”.
You avoid one such call, choosing instead to look at the scenery outside the window, but how long can man avert natural disasters? In a short while, you look around you, fidget uncomfortably, and stand up to go to the toilet.
When you embark on that tumultuous, treacherous journey, here are the golden rules of how to come out unscathed from the toilet in an Indian train.
1. Practice pranayam.
The toilets on Indian trains are witness to a wide vista of food, cultures, habits, and idiosyncrasies. As a result, one needs superhuman abilities to counter such elements.
To successfully complete a session of visiting the toilet, you need to be an expert in Pranayam. For the uninitiated and culture-less souls who haven’t heard of Pranayam, it is an ancient Indian technique of breath control that involves complex breathing exercises.
When ancient rishis created the Pranayam, they did it for health and longevity reasons. Thousands of years later, there is no greater daily use for Pranayam than while visiting the toilet on an Indian train.
2. Carry a bottle of water.
Water, as we all know, is slowly but surely turning into a scarcity. Even Sachin Tendulkar promotes Rainwater harvesting. And as we all know, whatever Sachin promotes has to be good for us (except TVS Victor – that bike sucked!).
The Indian Railways, an ethical and honest organisation as any the world has seen, often chooses to do its bit towards the cause of water conversation. So right in the middle of a gigantic dump, you’ll find that there’s no water in the toilets.
Carry a bottle of water with you to deal with such situations. Use it wisely. Water is precious.
Also, the water bottle comes in handy because there are often no mugs in the toilet. In the AC compartment, the government trusts you with a steel mug, but even that is chained to the tap. Cos you know, I will pay 1500 rupees for a train ticket, and steal a steel mug worth 20 rupees!
3. Carry soap with you.
This point cannot be stressed enough. Inside of an Indian train toilet, you find many things. Gutkha packets lovingly rolled up into the nozzle of the tap, passionate messages of love (Want Sex? Call Me), and bright spots of paan splattered all over the wall to overcome the monotony of blue and red.
What you will NOT find, however, is a piece of soap. Carry one with you. Even Sachin Tendulkar promotes hand washing with soap.
4. Carry nothing with you.
In the older days, people were allowed to smoke on trains. I think it was less to do with the lack of anti-smoking laws, and more to do with the fact that people needed something to do while they were at work.
However, you cannot carry a cigarette with you now. There are friendly cops patrolling the train who will knock on your door politely and take absolutely nothing from you.
If you are travelling with a friend (and trust him enough), give him your wallet. Leave your phone in the bag. The Indian toilets are gigantic black holes that suck whatever goes into them. And we all have that one friend whose Nokia phone slipped in through the toilet and caused a meteor hole in the tracks.
And either ways, even if you drop your phone at Thane and pull the chain, the train is going to stop somewhere near Nasik, so there’s really no point. Do not carry anything with you.
5. Pray to God.
This is the most important step. Pray. Just close your eyes and pray that nothing goes wrong. If you are an atheist, pray to Neil deGrasse Tyson. Because there is only so much control man has of his circumstances. And there are innumerable things that can go wrong in an Indian toilet.
You have to balance yourself in an Olympic level delicate position, gripping on to anything the toilet provides you.
You have to balance yourself on a constantly shaking box, and you wonder what sins you committed in your past life to go through this ordeal.
The flush might stop working permanently, or continue to flow endlessly like the Ganga. The tap might be turned in such a delicate angle that you end up with water all over your face. A sudden jerk might topple you from your delicate stance and – let’s not even get there.
So pray. Pray to God that nothing goes wrong in the entire endeavour. Promise never to visit those blasphemous websites again. Hope and pray, close your eyes and think of the most wonderful memories of your life.
Finally, check your surroundings for missing objects/happy memories, and step out of the toilet.
Now that you have come out unscathed, don’t touch those samosas again!