Tuesday, April 18, 2006

In the beginning

The idea of a Good Loo Guide goes back almost 10 years, when I suggested it as a possible book to a friend who was then (and still is) in charge of commissioning new MSS for a well-known publishing house. You have restaurant guides, hotel guides, bar and pub guides—for all you know, even brothel guides (‘the sheets were clean, but there were two holes bored in the wall next to the bed’)—but no guide to the toilets of the world. Even the Hitch-Hikers’ Guide to the Galaxy, that indispensable vade-mecum for all interplanetary travellers, is strangely silent on this score. What does one do if one is in receipt of a sudden and urgent call of nature at midnight in, say, St Peter’s Square, Rome or Gariahater Mor, Calcutta? How does know which button to press for what in a public convenience in Kobe, Japan? How many minutes will elapse before the automatic door of a lavabo on Rue Moufftard swings open, exposing the occupant to the eyes of Gay Paree? What sort of pen is most suitable for writing graffiti on the walls of airport toilet cubicles? Is it possible to burnish wood with the toilet paper dispensed by the authorities at Otopeni Airport, Bucharest?

Questions of great pith and moment, you would think. But the men in grey who skulked in the S&M department of the publishing house (‘Sales and Marketing’, would you credit it?) nixed the proposal, saying they would not be able to sell the book, and besides, it would considerably lower the tone of their list! Huh!! Wait till you find yourself without a pot to piss in in a local train from Howrah to Rampurhat!!! (There is in fact such a train called Bamdeb Local between these two stations, notorious for its slowness and lack of loos. Technically, its engine is a DMU [Diesel Mechanical Unit] but is more popularly expanded as ‘Dada Moote Uthoon’ and ‘Didi Moote Uthben’. Note the extra courtesy extended to the dis of the species in the injunction.)

So, finally, almost after a decade of simmering on the back burner as it were, the Good Loo Guide is loosed upon the world, from a great height. The world will never be the same.

What will the GLG contain?

1. A list of loos for those inconvenient moments in time and space, in all the major world cities. If you have any loos to recommend, please post the location in the ‘Comments’ section, giving full details about opening hours, tariffs, softness of loo paper and so on.
2. A rating of all major loos, on a scale of one to five.
3. The loo in history: nothing less than a comprehensive history of toilets and its impact on human civilization.
4. Loo Read: what to read in the loo and what has been written about loos in world literature
5. Loos of the future: a loo(k) at what the future holds in store.

Let it begin.