The way toilets are built, and maintained, tells one something about a nation’s culture. In the US, toilets are huge, and the flushes, taps and driers function differently everywhere which really makes life difficult for people like myself, from the not-so-advanced half of the world. Somewhere taps start automatically. In other places the flush even flushes automatically, which is kind of scary for a first timer. Taps are also unique in each and every loo, which further complicates matters. And hand-driers are another issue altogether. Some places they are automatic, otherwise you may to need to press a button, or wave your hands or legs or something in front of some secret invisible sensor, till the thing decided to wake up and blast hot air. By then its easier to just wipe your hands on your hanky, or your jeans. In one washroom the drier wouldn’t start. I spotted a button on the wall next to the drier and pressed it thinking it would start the machine. I only succeeded in plunging the entire washroom into darkness and made several ladies shriek. I immediately put the lights back on and sheepishly left the space.
However, in the Taipei and Bangkok, toilets are much smaller, and taps easier to use. In Mumbai, toilets are not as bad as I thought they would be.
What has become of the humble handkerchief. That simple square piece of cloth is the most useful thing in the world. Its unassuming, doesn’t take up space, doesn’t weigh a lot, doesn’t drastically deplete the earth of valuable resources. Since childhood I have been used to carrying a handkerchief. It was a must in school. But I notice fewer people using it nowadays. Instead, toilets provide several miles of tissue paper. This is a sinful waste. In the US, people use the paper indiscriminately, kids pull out ten tissues at a time for fun. This, inspite of the fact that one toilet had the notice ‘Tissues=Trees’. You couldn’t say a truer word I thought, yet people are using it happily, without a thought, and one sees that same indifference growing in Indian society sadly.
There is soon going to be a day, I am sure, when you will have to put coins into the tissue dispenser to get your tissue. Instead of waiting for that crisis, we should start that system now, Rs.5 per tissue. Only then will people stop. Or at least reduce. There should also be a charge for the disposable toilet seat thats made of paper. I am sure that big companies will argue that these are all made out of recycled paper. But recycling also consumes good amounts of energy in some form of another. The only real solution is for each individual to reduce the amount they used.
Packaging is another big silent criminal. Products that use more plastic and paper in packaging should have a heavy tax on them. If you want all that paper and plastic you pay more.