Loo with a view

by sidin in , ,


So far this blog has a notorious reputation for almost never publishing the Part 2 of a blog post that I originally intend to write in parts. (Except the Letters from London. I suppose. Which aren't really serial-ish.) But the other day someone left a comment on old write up I put up. It was about a delightful week-long trip I went on to Colombo. The commentee wanted to know when I would write A Strait Apart - Part 2.

Chances are never. I don't think I remember enough of that trip anymore. Though I still have notes somewhere. On my old phone I think. So who knows.

But as providence would have it, someone who was on that trip with me suddenly sent me an email earlier today. The email had some picture attachments.

I'd borrowed Maria's camera at the National Museum in Colombo after running out of space on my own.

But as with most of my trips, and almost all photos I take on such trips, I'd completely forgotten about them minutes after boarding the return flight to Chennai.

Maria, none too unforgetful herself, also never emailed them to me. Till today.

I'd like to post just one of them. The most interesting one.

The National Museum in Colombo is as good as any museum of such scale in India. When I visited, the place was over-run by local school groups. However because this is Sri Lanka, and even the kids here are given a glass of coconut arrack in the morning, things were still languid, humid and relaxed. In one room, near the entrance, there was a flat screen TV in one corner looping a DVD on Sri Lankan history. In the opposite corner a museum staffer sat at a wooden table and snored luxuriously. And no one seemed to be bothered by this. There was no embarrassment or sniggering.

Sri Lanka is that kind of country.

But there is plenty to look at in the Museum. Sri Lankan might be a small country that is only half as big as Tamil Nadu--and even then 40% of that is Arjuna Ranatunga. But they have great history, wonderful architecture and were mean engineers in their time.

So as I was floating from gallery to gallery I suddenly noticed, lined along one end of a connecting passage, a line of toilet-like things. All made of stone.

Some of them were easily recognizable as 'excretion stations'. Others looked slightly more bizarre:

I don't know about you. But the above toilet looks a little bit like the PWD contractor was trying to make the most of an extra window and his lowest bid.

But in fact that toilet was found in a Buddhist monastery. I was told that toilets like this were found inside dwellings for monks that were otherwise devoid of any ornamentation. The only element of their living space that had any decorative stonework was this toilet you see here. Why was this so?

Apparently at the time non-Monks on the island were spending vast sums of money building palaces and castles and such like. Monks, as you know, abhor such ostentation. (Which is why that fellow sold his Ferrari remember?)

In order to ridicule the luxury of non-Monk homes, and drive home that such things were evil, only monastery toilets had decorative carvings. The monks hated luxury so much... they crapped on it.

On the way out I walked through the TV room again.

This time a bunch of children were watching the screen. Behind them one of the parents sat at the wooden table. And snored luxuriously.

But that's ok. Sri Lanka is cool with that.