I think it was the American president with the hirsute name, who made the observation that the global food crisis and accompanying rise in prices was because Indians are eating too much.
As someone with the unenviable affliction of foot in the mouth disease, I totally understand were Bush was coming from. He probably had the great privilege of partaking in Onam Sadya at the White House intern, Gopalettan's house (I am pretty sure there's a mallu in the White House. No place is complete without a mallu and his spiel on 'Namade nadu'.
I mean, it’s understandable that anyone who sees one of our feasts will be intimidated. It’s the opulence of the whole thing. Like our marriages, deaths, festivals, culture, clothes, jewelry, spices etc; we seem to have this tendency to go a little overboard, don’t we?
25 dishes in one meal! Come on!
But it’s not about the intake I want to talk about today, folks. It’s the output.
Yes my friends, we shit a lot.
One of the inescapable things about India is shit.
You can't ignore the fact that there is an significant amount of bowel movements occurring all around you.
You walk on the streets and you are confronted with shit. Cow shit, dog shit, human shit, alien shit (You know? The one whose source cannot be determined; it's lying there and you can swear that you saw it move), every perceivable kind of shit.
It's not like we don't know what to do with it, we do. We pretend it doesn’t exist. No pretending is the wrong word.
We see so much of it, that we stop seeing it.
At my age I cannot ignore shit. It's my current favorite past time. I am that sort who examines the bathrooms before I check into a hotel.
Wait! You do that too!
I know it’s a natural function that is biodegradable but I feel shit is not something that should be seen.
So when I see shit, it begets all sort of emotions. Disgust, repulsion, worry, amazement, disgust; wait, I already said that.
Last year,I had the privilege of travelling to Delhi from Bangalore on the Rajdhani Express. I was accompanying my bike, a beautiful Royal Enfield Desert Storm, which was loaded in the train's luggage compartment. I was planning a solo bike ride through the Uttrakhand. My final destination was Magankhola, an obscure abandoned village in Pithoragarh, where I was planning to build a retreat and an eco resort.
The train trip introduced me to the slightly disturbing pass time of shitspotting, whenever the train stopped. Who in their right mind answers the call of nature when the train has stopped at the station? I mean, that's just plain weird.
As you know, the train loos are just a hole on the floor. For reasons known only to the mighty powers who seemed to be nailed to their political chairs, our trains do not have septic tanks, rather the whole Indian landscape is our toilet.
In the 3 days it took to reach my destination, I had seen enough splatter patterns to make me a forensic shit splatter expert.
By observing these patterms I could determine the direction the train went (opposite to the direction of the splatter), speed (longer splatters), health of the culprit (texture), etc.
Dexter, the shit splatter expert. Who goes out at night to kill psycho shitters.
Train journeys are interesting. Have you noticed the railway smell? It's this combined rusty smell of all sort of things. You really can't put your finger on it. Not that you would ever want to. You can swear there's this low note of urine and feces in it. But you really cannot be sure. Maybe we can one day bottle it and gift it to railway ministry. We can give it as a retirement gift to all railway employees.
A sniff of your life.
I normally try and get the upper berth on the side seats. The ones on the sides that are single seaters facing each other. Being a sociopath, it helps that I don't have to deal with fellow passengers. With an upper berth, you can stay up there, only to come down for feeding. Like a sloth.
I soon realized that this was a mistake. I wasn't the same shape I was in when I last rode the trains. Which was 23 years ago. You can't sit up there anymore. I refuse to believe that I have grown taller, though I can be persuaded. It's also narrower than I recall. In the name of efficiency our government seems to be sacrificing space for profits. The horror!
Thankfully the seat opposite was not occupied throughout the journey. So I spent the days on the lower berth, watching India racing by my window...and shit on the railway tracks.
It doesn't help that the Rajdhani is a foodie train. The whole entertainment is centered around food. There are these chaps dressed in black, running across the aisle just plying you with food. Minutes after the train started moving they shoved a small tray with 2 breadsticks and a sachet of butter into my hands, which I promptly devoured. 15 minutes later I was handed a paper glass filled with what looked like tomato soup and it dawned to me that the breadsticks were meant for that.
I saw the seasoned ones, slowly peeling the paper wrapper of their breadsticks and dipping it into the soup and eating it, all the time stealing contemptuous glances at my naivety.
Trays of food are brought out after the train has stopped at some station. This meant that for the last 15 to 20 minutes I had been fixating on the turds on the track. Not exactly an appetizing zone to be. The rest of my co passengers ate with gusto while I looked on at the dhal and started superimposing visuals in my head. I bet Dexter does that each time he smacks a blob of ketchup onto his plate.
The food just kept on coming. I eat very little on a train. It's the toilet thing. I just can't. I must be fussy. Maybe I have some sort of phobia. Maybe there's a fancy name for it. But there you go. I am a normal person with some unique compulsive disorders.
Tys: I see shit.
Malcolm Crowe: In your dreams?
[Tys shakes his head no]
Malcolm Crowe: While you're awake?
Malcolm Crowe: shit like, in bathrooms? In loos?
Tys: Shit looking like regular shit. People don't see them. They only see what they want to see. They don't know they're there.
Malcolm Crowe: How often do you see them?
Tys: All the time. They're everywhere.