Sunday, July 17, 2016

Zen Toilets

Remember the Epiphany Toilet? There is a whole episode in Scrubs dedicated to it: a toilet atop the roof of a building, on which you can sit and watch the world pass by beneath you, blue skies in full view. If you sit on the toilet with a burning problem, you will be struck with a sudden epiphany on how you can solve it and you might then victoriously stand up to celebrate your epiphany with your pants still rolled down.

Waiting for an epiphany to strike

I haven’t had the good fortune to find an Epiphany Toilet yet. But I have found other similar, celestial toilets which I will call Zen or Euphoria Toilets. A Zen Toilet must be in the open and in the wild. The actual pot is just a formality and not really essential; a light breeze caressing your bare posterior is always welcome. Here is the important part, though: to experience true zen/euphoria you must be in full view of anyone who happens to pass by, but you must be crafty so that you are not spotted while in the process of relieving yourself.

Zen Toilets gather and brew a concoction of feelings in you. The concoction contains in no fixed proportions: relief, from emptying your bladder; contentment at the breeze around your ankles and bare bottom; happiness from being able to hear bird song or animal calls or the wind swaying through leaves; mild worry and mortification that you might be spotted.  This heady mix simmers and culminates in blissful zen, causing a beatific smile to spread over your face. 

At night, there is the added pleasure of emptying your bladder in complete darkness with a sky full of stars above you. I experienced this in Kachchh on a cold winter night. I had at first reluctantly wriggled out of my sleeping bag and into the freezing night, not wanting to take off my layers of thermals. But at the insistence of my bladder, I found a Prosopis tree behind which I could squat, turned off my headlamp, exposed my hindquarters to the cold night air with a little whimper and looked up in the darkness.

I was greeted by a star-studded sky: a black slate etched with constellations and galaxies and the brown swathe that was the Milky Way; it seemed as though there were so many stories pinned up in the sky, waiting to be told. My beatific smile still lingered when I crawled back into my sleeping bag. 

Another Zen Toilet which gave me much happiness (and happened to have an actual toilet) was in a little village called Hewale in Maharashtra. The loo was outside the house and next to tall evergreen trees which langurs often frequented, and adjacent to a rice field from where you could hear people and cows calling. The toilet was on a stone slab and enclosed by straw mats on four sides and a tarpaulin on top. There was no door, just two flaps of straw mats in the front. While on the john, a friendly breeze had a habit of wafting in and twirling around my ankles. Sometimes, the breeze was a little too friendly and blew the flaps of the loo wide open. I soon learned to anticipate when this would happen and quickly grab the flaps before it swung open. Gradually, however, the Zen Toilet taught me to Let it Be and this I did (but of course, this was after I made sure that people from the fields outside couldn’t really see someone inside the loo). Zen was then attained with the help of the noisy rustle of langurs in the trees, fluty bird song and the grating call of the cicadas.

Next on my list: peeing into a stream or off a hill which I am told is euphoric too. But first I need to master that thoughtful invention that allows women to stand up and pee.


  1. My Zen Toilet moment was in the rain forest listening to the stump-tailed macaques go by their daily business and the white-tailed shama singing in the tree canopy right over my head!

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