Monday, May 18, 2009

Lock less in Europe

If you were a Roman, Born 2000 years ago, you would have, after a hard day's work, gone to a public bath complex. You would have had a dip in a hot or cold pool. Sat in a steam or sauna room and perhaps enjoyed a gossip session with your friends. The Roman baths were after all a gathering point and a developer of a community.

Considering the spectacular art, architecture and the history of the Romans, I completely understand an European's obsession with anything Roman, be it roads, edifices or aqua ducts but to be enamored with the ideology of a public baths still, in my opinion, is a bit too much.

Bathrooms in European apartments generally do not have locks. Anyone can walk in while you are in there. The first time I went to a lock less bathroom, I was in Cambridge, U.K. I was in my cousin's apartment. There was no lock visible on the door. That was nothing new. In Europe most of the bathroom fixtures are not visible. You wave a hand and water miraculously appears from the taps. Another wave and the W.C. flushes. Expecting the technology had made the lock disappear, I stood there for ten minutes doing various waving acts from different angles. Nothing happened. No click, no shut. Finally admitting defeat, I came out and and asked my cousin about the door lock playing hooky. "It's not there", she said rather apologetically. "What? Not there? Any body can walk in while you know...?" Well, hell. it was a lesson in culture, but what do you do?

So there began my quest for a solution to this unique European issue. In U.K., I tried singing aloud every time I was in the bathroom. So now you know why 'bathroom singer' is an English expression. Has any body heard a 'Shauchalay Gayak'? No translation possible in any Indian language.

In another places I tried to keep the possible intruders away by keeping a heavy object against the bathroom door. Chairs. Stool. Microwave. Anything man, I was desperate. I also found a heavy object and a loud singing combination worked better. Sort of like a double lock. Just when I thought I had installed a perfect security system, I was foxed in Amsterdam. The door to the bathroom was sheer glass. Can you imagine that? My song and chair combo could keep away intruders but what about prying eyes? When I expressed my concern to my husband, he appeared hurt. "After so many years of marriage you do not trust me to be ethical? You think I will barge in when you are most vulnerable?"

"Well sorry honey, I don't. And I trust my two little devils even less. They are yet to grasp this concept of privacy." So this time it was a chair, my loud voice and a bed sheet hung over the sheer door.

Completely disgusted with the flawed sense of design,(Roman or not), I vented my anger. How completely vulgur and what an utter lack of courtesy. My husband looked up from his breakfast cereal and said calmly, "Every day, on way to work, Mumbaiites in trains are greeted by the sight of hundreds of people squatting beside railway tracks doing their dirty jobs. It is better to have a lock less bathroom than to have none at all".

Well guys, I was completely stumped. What do you think? Lock less in Europe or shameless in India?


sujata sengupta said...

Wowie!! This has made me hysterical. I have never understood by the way the fascination for railway tracks? why that place? Forget lock less I cannot even make polite conversation in restrooms, be it a hotel or a mall.

kochuthresiamma p .j said...

oh that was simply hilarious.inspres me to post a blog on some of my bathroom experiences.

shameless in india? sorry dont agree with your husband. the homeless may relieve themselves by the roadside but will not derobe themselves completely within the protection of mere clear glass.

के सी said...

agree with sujata
nice post

eye-in-sty-in said...

ha ha ha ha - that was funny! Even funnier coz I read lock less as LOOK less in Europe... and it STILL fit as the title for this post :D

Nona said...

Very interesting post! I have been in the "lockless" state myself. But glass door are a bit too much.

Talking about what would I prefer.. I will always go with the lockless option as against shameless(or optionless as there are no other options for them!)

aMus said...

eeeks! a glass door?!!! i would have done exactly what you did, only because of the lil devils... ;)

and i think with no lock doors, i'd have a very very hurried bath

Aparna said...

Thanks Sujata,no idea about the railway tracks either. I guess it is about the anonymity of people watching you.
Thanks Kishore for regularly visiting my blog and appreciating my writing.
kochuthresiamma, I read your blog and appreciated the link to my post.
eye-in-sty-in, look less also seems pretty appropriate.Next time you choose my post title.
Nona' you are right.lockless is better.
Suma, i became an expert at 2 minutes shower in Europe. the little devils sometimes have their uses.
Thanks every body for writing in, I appreciate.

Material Girl said...

Argh. Lock-less. Shriek. I've been there n never have I quivered more. Never :)

Rushabhh Gandhi said...

Different Perspectives....

Lock Less in Europe can be more or less a beautiful view.....:P

Bindhu Unny said...

Quite hialrious!
Btw, those who shit in public do not have a choice.
Well, it's better to have a lockless bathroom with glass door than do it in public.

Aparna said...

@ Newbie Mommy,yes I did shriek too,if you can call my singing that.
@ Rushabhh Gandhi, depends on which side of the door you are on!
@ Bindu Unni,yes I would prefer the lockless state too, but I don't really know about the options... are there really so few bathrooms in Mumbai?

eye-in-sty-in said...

Aparna, y do u think bindhu is from mumbai? :D
(valiantly defending my city)

Bindhu Unny said...

You guessed it right Aparna - I am living in Mumbai for the past five years. Reportedly, more than 50% of the population live in slums, many of them are illegal squatters. There are common toilets in some. Sulabh Shauchalays are also there. But quite inadequate for about 6 million human beings. For them, to have a plastic sheet roof over their head is luxury. :-(

Aparna said...

Eye-in-sty-in , I did not presume Bindhu was from Mumbai, I just casually asked whether there are really so less bathrooms here.I am taking her word for the truth regarding the number of toilets. The figures are abominable and I hope our politicians are reading this. (high hopes)Incidentally, you must have noticed that I also am from the same city.
My post was not an insult to the city's poor, it was on the European culture where taking a bath behind glass door is nothing extra-ordinary.And I did want to say having a bathroom, even if it is lock less is better than not having one at all....

Sucharita Sarkar said...

This was a hilarious post!!! Mumbai has made me immune to defecating bums but it is quite another thing to display oneself through a glass door, invitingly or otherwise!

Onkar said...

Very well-written post. Enjoyed reading.

Maria Alexander said...


Paul said...

Regarding politicos reading this blog : well, if they were that literate, they wouldn't be in politics, would they?

As a keralite student in Madras I took the train between Cochin and Madras thrice a year for five years. When the train reached Tamilnadu in the wee hours of the morning one was greeted by the site of exposed bums on either side of the track. However, the journey towards kerala was a different affair. I guess the habit also has something to do with a people's sense of hygiene, or perhaps culture.