When I was young, I was always so scared of the squat/hole toilet (aka the khada), the ones they commonly have in Pakistan and India. I was always afraid I’d miss, or even worse, that I’d fall into the hole and would need to call out for someone to come rescue me. To make things more complicated, the bathroom locks in Pakistan were problematic, since they could only be opened from the inside, so even if I did fall in, I’d be screaming out for help, but I’d still be stuck in there all alone. Also, here’s an interesting tidbit for those you unfamiliar with bathrooms from that side of the world – for a majority of these toilets you are the flush. You have to take a bucket of water and pour it down for the toilet to “flush”.
Despite going to Pakistan over a dozen times and for months at a time, I’ve never actually experienced using a public restroom in Pakistan. Similar to my fear of hole toilets, I also feared public toilets, so in Pakistan that only compounded with a public hole toilet. I think it all started when I had to go really bad at Karachi Airport, and I walked into the public bathroom. I opened the stall door, leading to small dark room with a hole in the middle of the floor, a lota next to it, and with water all around it on the floor. You can’t really tell the colour of the water on the floor since it’s so dark, so you’re already fearful of what you’re walking into. You got a preview of the odor when you walked into the bathroom, but when you actually open the stall door it’s like the stench exponentially multiplies, and hits you like a truck at full speed. At that moment in life, I decided I was never going to go to a public bathroom in Pakistan ever again.
A public bathroom is one thing, but a public bathroom lota? That is pushing it. Public bathrooms are gross enough because people going in are like “well this isn’t my house, I can make a mess and be disgusting, I don’t have to clean it up, and no one will know it was me”. This is why making a mess at a friend’s house doesn’t work, because everyone will know it was you. You can try to do it at work, but it’s risky because it’s with people you know. Doing this in a public restroom is common, but can still backfire in some scenarios. Like when you walk out of the stall, you see someone waiting to go in right after you. You feel somewhat sorry for them in the half a millisecond of eye contact he makes with you, as if he’s saying “God I hope you left that thing in good condition”. He walks in, and immediately knows he’s screwed. You rush to wash your hands, get out of the bathroom and try to forget about the mess you left behind. At the same time you keep your eye out for that guy for the rest of your time in the shopping mall.
Anyways, the point is people don’t respect public bathrooms. And if they don’t respect public bathrooms, you better believe people won’t respect the public lota. Public bathroom’s also get drastically more usage, meaning the lota is not only going to be disrespected, it’s also going to get some massive abuse. Even if it’s one of those hose lota thingys that spray water onto your butt, I think you’re going to be taking a huge risk by just being in the same room as that thing.
At my Khala’s house in Pakistan, they only had a squat toilet (Khala is the Urdu word for mom’s sister, not to be confused with khada). I refused to sleep over at their place just in case I needed to go to the bathroom; even #1 was out of the question. Any time we’d have to go over to their place for dinner, I would make sure to not drink any water, and would hold off on eating too much that day…just in case.
After a few years on one of my visits to Pakistan, my Khaloo (my Khala’s husband) told me that I could now stay over to their place, since they had a new toilet, and this one had a kursi (kursi is the Urdu word for chair). So my cousins and I got together, rented Terminator 2, and got dropped off at my Khala’s to spend the night there. As soon as I walked in, first thing I demanded was for my Khaloo to show me the bathroom with this new toilet.
He takes me into the bathroom, and there I see a wooden chair on top of the hole, with the a hole cut into the chair (similar to the picture below). I ran out of the bathroom screaming, ran straight back down the stairs to try and go back home, but my ride had already left. This toilet was drastically worse than the hole. I can come up with a dozen reasons why it’s worse, but for the sake of everyone reading this blog, I’ll just leave that to your imagination. Luckily, I survived that night without having to the bathroom.