Somehow, though we had been in India for two weeks neither of us had been required to use an Indian-style toilet. Rajeev had been quite concerned about this important, but little discussed, difference in eastern and western tradition. To be fair, when we first arrived in Bangalore, outside the airport we stopped briefly at a restroom, and I said, “I can’t do this right now.” After close to two days of travel time and more than 20-hours cooped up in an airplane, in the tiny stalls with all the cleanliness one would expect of a highly-trafficked, public restroom, I could not use the restroom outside the Bangalore airport. I had used the restroom not long before our relatively short flight anyway. Take this with some context. I cannot use public restrooms in the U.S. unless I am in literal pain, even on a perfectly routine day. I can barely use some of the restrooms at the University, and at times have had to walk away and suffer due to their lack of cleanliness. As a child, once, on a family vacation I literally held it all day when the one option for relief was a smelly outhouse.
So there we were at Uncle’s coconut farm, getting ready to embark on our memorable adventure. As anyone would expect, Uncle had an Indian-style toilet in the age-old family home. The first instinct of our host was to try to find a western-style toilet somewhere in the village. This was a little preposterous. Entire continents of people have been potty-trained on eastern-style toilets, and continue to use them quite successfully as adults. At 40-years old with a Ph.D. I should be able to figure out the toilet.
Silly as it sounds, I just needed a little help. On those occasions when a public restroom is unavoidable, it is difficult enough to hold yourself up above the commode in an effort not to touch anything. I had a hard time imagining being able to hold myself up without anything to hold onto, and by some miracle not get myself soaked in the process.
“Number one or number two?” Raj asked. I would have laughed out loud if I did not have to pee so badly. I have not heard that phrase since about grade school. “I just have to pee. Should I cross my legs instead?” I replied. Pragmatically speaking, I would rather get instructions from someone I know, in someone’s home, rather than figure it out in a public toilet and pray to the good goddess almighty I don’t pee on myself.
Jyothi offered to accompany me and provide instructions. Volunteering to show a grown woman how to use the toilet is a sign of a truly good-hearted person. “I’m not going to pee on myself?” I asked. “You are not going to pee on yourself”, she affirmed. “Are you sure?” She was pretty confident I would not get myself wet, no matter how many times I asked. I was honestly shocked when I did not pee on myself. It is going to take a little practice, but I am starting to think it is not such a miracle after all.