Switzerland, the tiny country famous for chocolates and Roger Federer, Yash Choprasque locales and black money-friendly banks, has ruffled Asian feathers with a campaign that stinks of racism. Pictograms aimed at visitors from Southeast Asia and the Middle East have been posted at Mount Rigi railway, explaining how to sit on a loo seat rather than squat, and how to flush out used toilet paper instead of throwing it in the bin. The basic instruction, “Lift the lid before sitting”, has been left out, mercifully.
According to Swiss railway’s marketing director Roger Joss, “Guests mount the seat to do their business.” Going a step ahead on the West-isbest track, Marcel Furer, who heads the regional tourist office, has said: “Tourists from the Gulf region or Asian countries are not much aware of our way of living. It has happened that people relieve themselves in the shower rather than in the toilet.” No wonder the cleanliness-obsessed Furer reminds us of the Fuhrer, Adolf Hitler, who was himself an expert in cleansing — of the racial kind. Though the Swiss authorities have smartly not singled out any country, India’s name is prominently pooping, oops, popping up in people’s minds. Being a shudh, desi Hindustani, I urge Switzerland to clarify that its shit-or-miss drive isn’t meant for Indian tourists. Here are four points to buttress my plea:
Open defecation: Indians are world toppers in easing themselves in the lap of nature. How can you accuse my compatriots of not using your john properly when millions of them don’t even enter it? Moreover, some of those who have a latrine at home still do it in the open as they feel claustrophobic indoors. We do have an anti-defection law, but no anti-defecation bill has been passed so far. The million-franc question is: do my cultured brethren soil the scenic Alps with their ‘outburst’? That’s a mystery I challenge your Polizei to solve.
Squatting position: We are a proud nation of squatters. Our honourable politicians continue to occupy government accommodation long after losing the elections. And tenacious tenants stay put despite the landlord’s desperate attempts to evict them. In the toilet department, we prefer the Indianstyle squatting seat. The throne-like Western version, thrust upon us by the British, doesn’t really energise our bowels. It’s the lavatory, provided we use it, where we truly loosen our colonial pyjama strings.
Swachh Bharat Abhiyan: Our PM’s dream project has turned sanitation into a national duty. Everywhere, overzealous fellows are cleaning, wiping, dusting and sweeping anything that comes within striking distance. If our country still looks filthy, blame our unfriendly neighbours China and Pakistan. They don’t want India to become spick-n-span like Switzerland. As tourists, we are so safai pasand that we thoroughly clean our hotel rooms before checking out. In the process, we quietly pocket soap bars, shampoo sachets, spoons and other essentials. It’s called safekeeping, not stealing.
Crazy Bollywood: Don’t be misled by what they show in Hindi movies. In Piku, Irffan (or is it Irrfan?) helps the constipated Amitabh Bachchan mount the pot seat, but the whole effort goes down the proverbial drain. In Shamitabh, Big B sings ‘Piddly si baatein’ while sitting right there – without even lifting the lid! If you’ve seen Vidya Balan strut her stuff in The Dirty Picture, don’t be amazed to know that she’s also the brand ambassador for the Clean India mission. In short, we are like this only, soch or no soch, shauch or no shauch.