The squat toilet is a facility, but not as we know it. Using a squat takes the dexterity of an Olympic gymnast: good balance, aim and flexibility which is something most westerners are lacking. However, I am told mastering the squat can lead to dryer feet, spiritual enlightenment and a more pleasurable bathroom experience. Much to my own frustration, despite my travelling experience I have yet to become accomplished in the art of the squat toilet. Whilst it may be vaguely comical to urinate on your left foot in a French service station during your GCSE’s, doing it for two months in India can be somewhat tiresome and annoying.
There is always some confusion when you are directed into a damp, dark room and are unsure if you are in the right place or if in fact you are being sold into slavery. I have entered facilities an inch deep in water with nothing more than a drain to pee over, but when you have to go, you have to go! Doors are often saloon style and seldom lock, leading to a choice of one legged toilet gymnastics or singing out loud whilst peeing to protect ones modesty. Next comes the trouser dilemma. Do you roll up at the ankles and down at the waist? Reach between your knees and move the material out of the way? Lean forward? Back? Or my own personal favourite, the full trouser removal. Whilst it may seem over cautious, not to mention tricky, it is the only way of guaranteeing zero spray in the trouser department. If there is not a hook, or indeed a door to hang them over you can scrunch them into a ball and hold them under your chin during your squat. Of course caution should be exercised depending on the environment, losing your trousers down the over track long drop on a fast moving Indian train can lead to a very embarrassing walk back to your seat. It is also important to remember that if any of your bare skin comes in contact with a clammy tiled wall during your squat you will never be clean again and seriously consider amputation as an option. Once you actually manage to do your business pressed against a wall, in a stress position, with one limb holding the door and your pants under your chin, comes the tricky task of cleansing your under carriage. If you have tissue with you and are planning the “trouser removal method,” you should plan ahead by popping one in to your mouth beforehand for easy access. However, it should be noted this can not be joined with the “singing to protect your modesty method.” Of course once the tissue is used there is nowhere to put it. You could put it down the squat and let it float around as a sign that a silly westerner has used the toilet. Or stash it in the cistern, out of sight out of mind. Or just pop it back into your pocket for next time, reduce reuse recycle. Alternatively you could use you the tried and tested “watery wash method.” If there is a tap, excellent! You can have a shower from the waist down, drip dry and leave the facilities feeling as fresh as a daisy. Another option is often the “bucket of stagnant water method” which you can throw at yourself in the vain hope of avoiding Hepatitis B and other ailments. Beware, Some facilities have a tap and bucket outside of the cubicle which you must fill before you pee and take in with you. If you make the mistake of rushing in this can not be rectified after you have pee’d and no one will assist you no matter how loud you shout, scream or cry for help. Once you have got through the main part of the experience it is customary to spend five minutes looking for a flush and a further ten minutes waiting for an automatic flush to happen. Eventually you will realise you should dilute rather than flush and throw some more stagnant water down the hole for good measure, usually ruining all of your hard work with a massive splash back.
Of course these are merely my own experiences and you may be a black belt in the dark arts of squat toileting. If you are, congratulations, you lucky fiend! Perhaps you could seek me out and offer some private tuition (I’ll be the one with a squeaky left flip flop, no trousers and the vague stench of urine).