Tuesday, March 18, 2008


If you travel from Borivili to Malad via the Western Express Highway in the morning around 7 o'clock, while crossing a place called Bandongri, you will be treated to a peculiar sight. Dotting the hilly terrain on the left of the highway, half-hidden by sundry scraggly bushes and rocks, are over a score of men, squatting and ...shitting (sorry, any euphemism cannot recreate the visual impact of the sight). Nothing unusual in sanitarily-challenged India, but what seems strange to me is the fact that all the men face the highway, with their privates blowin' in the wind. Back in West Bengal men shitting beside railway tracks coyly display their behinds (or rather, 'backsides' in Indian English).
Mumbai is more 'upfront' in all respects. These people live in chawls, where three/four toilets are shared by all the men and women. As a mark of chivalry the men let the women use the toilets during the morning peak-hour toilet-traffic and gallantly take to the hillside to answer nature's call.
The sight is a surefire wake-me-up to still-sleepy travellers on the highway. It is not just the variety of private parts in action on display that boggles the mind; an interesting sideshow is formed by the different utensils used by the men to carry water (to wash up after the act). There are aluminium and multi-coloured plastic mugs (for those who believe in conserving water) and buckets (for the finicky ones, I guess). There are a few traditional lotas. The modern chappies usually bring two-litre Pepsi bottles.
To replay the action: the men usually come jauntily, swinging their... water-containers. Then they select a particular spot (or maybe they have alloted spaces - all equally visible from the highway), paw the ground for insects and vermin, look furtively while disrobing and then squat, heads down, and the real action starts.
Some wear patterned lungis, some white pajamas, some denim bermudas. But when these are discarded, there is a homogeneity in all that variety. United colours of India!

1 comment:

Siddhartha said...

I wonder if it was winter when such visuals enriched the trainline. Because winter and spring are connected by behind. I don't know if Shelley had any problems a posteriori - the amount of wine that went in must have come out from various places. The Bengal-crowd is alike in many areas. They excel in PNPC, which might roughly translate as 'speaking about people at their back(side)', and as backside stands for behind in Indian English the problem becomes clear. Bengali's are not supportive of frontal attack, and as report goes very missionary in their missions with "nari"s. Apologies to the adventurous ladies. So the Bengali behind finds the most exposure. Mumbai-mastans obviously are very upfront in these matters. Similar features are found in many other Northern states. Sharing is good, but it is quite wonderful how this morning manifestation has its own point-counterpoint, might we call it a scatologistical blog?