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  • Washing after a Number Two

    by Sid (Faisal)
    5th March, 2009 at 4:56 pm    

    Christian Wolmar writes in the Guardian, about a delicate and often unspoken aspect of personal hygiene that Southasians have practiced since the year dot:

    Three years ago I went to India and discovered botty nirvana. While I was suffering from one of those inevitable bouts of Delhi belly, I was staying in a room with a spray attachment that allowed me to clean my anus – let’s call spades spades here, it is not my bottom – without having to touch it or use paper.

    It saved me from piles and rash, and definitely avoided a lot of pain. The first few times I checked whether I was clean with toilet paper but soon I realised that was unnecessary. I was spotless every time in both senses of the word.

    So when I got back to Britain, I found that fortunately I had a shower attachment that reached over to the toilet and I could perform the same task. Result: large amounts of toilet paper saved, and a far cleaner and refreshed feeling that was far more hygienic. As for the wetness, there is a choice – either dab off with a small amount of toilet paper or use a towel specially for the purpose. Remember the towel is nothing more than drying off clean buttocks, pretty much the same as coming out of the shower, but obviously I change it regularly. Of course in the Indian heat, a bit of dampness did not matter.

    Enough of my personal hygiene. Now for the wider points. If everyone in the world used as much toilet paper as people in the UK, let alone Americans, there would not be a single tree left. It is all very well talking about the sustainability of different brands, but in truth we should all be using water sprays. They are increasingly being fitted in India, replacing the rather more difficult jug and left hand technique which requires rather more contact than most westerners can contemplate.

    In Southasia, the practice of washing the anus after a taking a crap is practiced across classes and by all religious denominations and by the young and old. Universally, in other words. In fact, the use of toilet paper is a  modern innovation only recently adopted by a thin sliver of the middle classes. For everyone else in the Indian subcontinent, the age-old practice of  bum-washing remains the way to complete the task and keep diseases such as bacterial infections and worms at bay. The only condition is that you give your hands a good scrubbing afterwards.

    Whether they use the traditional “jug and hand technique” or those new-fangled extensible water hoses or a bidet, the practice is still carried on in the diaspora.

    And it has remained a practice that has no name. Until now, pehaps.

    Because, as it turns out that, eschewing toilet paper and cleaning the nether regions with water is not only good for your personal hygiene and body odour, it’s good for the environment.

    Above all, though, we need to talk about this issue. There are serious environmental considerations at issue. The fact that it is so difficult even to mention this subject is down to our Victorian prudishness. A few years ago, dog doo-doos were in the same unmentionable category but now owners have to get used to the idea of picking up the brown stuff, a far more yucky task than using water spray to clean one’s anus.

                  Post to del.icio.us

    Filed in: Environmentalism,Humour,South Asia

    47 Comments below   |  

    Reactions: Twitter, blogs
    1. pickles

      New blog post: Washing after a Number One http://www.pickledpolitics.com/archives/3493

    1. David T — on 5th March, 2009 at 5:05 pm  


      Are you FRENCH??????!!!!!

    2. Sid — on 5th March, 2009 at 5:08 pm  

      No but I eat as much garlic as your average Frenchman does, I’m sure.

    3. Sunny — on 5th March, 2009 at 5:18 pm  


    4. Sid — on 5th March, 2009 at 5:27 pm  

      I do eat a lot of garlic.

    5. Ally — on 5th March, 2009 at 5:28 pm  

      Surely you mean after a number two?

    6. DavidMWW — on 5th March, 2009 at 5:30 pm  

      One word: Kandoos.

    7. Sid — on 5th March, 2009 at 5:30 pm  

      Number one, number two. Will someone clear that up once and for all.

    8. Don — on 5th March, 2009 at 5:32 pm  

      Personally, I find a swan’s neck does the job perfectly well.

      I have heard, in terms of toilet paper, that in the UK we fold, while in the states they bunch.

    9. dave bones — on 5th March, 2009 at 6:19 pm  

      Yeah I got out of the western habit of toilet paper in India in 1999/2000. Chopping down trees to wipe your ass with- I mean no wonder nature is going to shrug us off this planet.

    10. Andrew — on 5th March, 2009 at 6:20 pm  

      The beats knew about this - I remember reading one of them (Allen Ginsberg, probably) pointing out that when they were being derided as a bunch of dirty drop-outs, they were the only people in America with clean assholes.

      I switched shortly after reading that.

    11. Paul Moloney — on 5th March, 2009 at 6:25 pm  

      Having been in Malaysia every year since 1999, I still haven’t gotten used to squat toilets and hoses for bottoms. The former is mainly due to my weedy legs (I’m back in the gym doing squats these days, so hopefully that will help), but the latter is mainly due to the fact that I’m not sure how do it without the water going everywhere.


    12. Edsa — on 5th March, 2009 at 6:49 pm  

      The problem in Incredible India is not that they wash their bums with water from their precious lotas but they do the job just about anywhere. Seeing lines or circles of defecators along the railway line is a common tourist attraction. No shame, no embarassment - it is a pious, cultural practice. The only country where defecating is both a natural right and a form of protest.

    13. Sunny — on 5th March, 2009 at 7:14 pm  

      it’s number two man!

    14. Foxyullah — on 5th March, 2009 at 7:22 pm  

      This gives a whole different meaning to “Wash & Go”….

    15. Desi Italiana — on 5th March, 2009 at 7:29 pm  

      This is one thing I can’t wrap my head around: when non Desi and non-Italian folks deride the bidet/lota technique. They deem it “nasty,” “gross,” etc.

      Tell me what’s more disgusting: people who only use toilet paper or give their butt a nice wash-down?

      Anyhoo, I reviewed
      a book titled “The Big Necessity: The Unmentionable World of Human Waste And Why It Matters, by Rose George,” and she quotes an Englishmen who says the following:

      “Paper cultures are in fact using the least efficient cleansing medium to clean the dirtiest part of their body. This point was memorably demonstrated by the valiant efforts of a Dr. J. A. Cameron, who in 1964 surveyed the underpants of 949 men of Oxfordshire, England, and found fecal contamination in nearly all of them that ranged from “wasp-colored” stains to “frank massive feces.” Dr. Cameron, though a medical man, could not contain his dismay that “a high proportion of the population are prepared to cry aloud about the footling matters of uncleanliness such as a tomato stain on a restaurant tablecloth, whilst they luxuriate on a plush seat in their fecally stained pants.”

      Isn’t that funny, but so true.

    16. Laban Tall — on 5th March, 2009 at 10:03 pm  

      Be fair. The French pioneered this in Western Europe with the bidet, when they discovered that by washing the nether regions daily they could go without a bath for weeks.

    17. Imran Khan — on 5th March, 2009 at 11:21 pm  

      Hey Dave T won’t your girl Mel say this is further evidence of the Islamicisation of Europe and then you’ll have to run a series of articles backing her?

      After all you do love to follow her so shouldn’t you be condeming this practise. I mean after all your mate Dan Pipes condemned dem Muslims who do this as not having Germanic Standards of hygene.

      The best you can do is ask if they are French. Go to your room and read up on the views of Mel and Pipey and write one hundred times that I must blame it on the Muslim.

    18. Riz Din — on 5th March, 2009 at 11:49 pm  

      I have employed a poor boy to attend to my person for this very purpose. It is part of a programme I call the faecal stimulus the package.

    19. Roger — on 6th March, 2009 at 12:05 am  

      “It saved me from piles ”
      I doubt it.
      Anyway, what’s wrong with leaves?

    20. Sunny — on 6th March, 2009 at 12:30 am  

      It is part of a programme I call the faecal stimulus the package.


    21. Katy Newton — on 6th March, 2009 at 12:51 am  

      I don’t know what you people are talking about. I’m far too ladylike for any of this Number Two stuff. I don’t even have a bottom.

    22. fug — on 6th March, 2009 at 1:02 am  

      some sing about it


    23. fug — on 6th March, 2009 at 1:07 am  

      extended version


    24. Jeff — on 6th March, 2009 at 2:03 am  

      These sprayers, some call them a hand held bathroom bidet sprayer are so much better than handfuls of toilet paper! I experienced my first sprayer in Thailand and fell in love with it. I found one online at http://www.bathroomsprayers.com and installed it myself. The Japanese ones are built in and much fancier (and expensive) but the Thai ones have more water flow and better control. You won’t know how or why you lived without it.

    25. Nyrone — on 6th March, 2009 at 3:25 am  

      I totally agree with the thrust and implication of this post. I remember going to Malaysia/Dubai and using the jet-spray hoses to wash, and wondering why this fantastic common-sense gadget had not been installed everywhere else in the world, surely it’s just a superior way of washing.

      I think that South-Asian people need to find ways of bringing this into the mainstream nationally and show Daily Mail readers that we bring more to these shores than just curry and terrorism.

    26. halima — on 6th March, 2009 at 4:48 am  

      Oh no….! This topic has made it to PP I I cringe when blokes talk about the loo and loo related habits and now we are talking about inter-cultural habits!

      I’ve had these chats fairly frequently with friends who don’t wash and use paper afterwards.. the conclusion is that they should shower more to compensate !

      Also, i don’t think it’s a south asian thing, I’ve seen the water spray or some variant all over the world except in Europe. But what gets me is when you are in a nice hotel in the Middle East or India and they only make toilets for Europeans and do away with the water-spray, and you’re wondering why they dispense with the habit in the more expensive hotels? odd that.

    27. Rayyan — on 6th March, 2009 at 6:42 am  

      LOL, Sid FTW - this is brilliant. British bidets for British bums!

    28. platinum786 — on 6th March, 2009 at 9:55 am  
    29. Sid — on 6th March, 2009 at 10:48 am  

      heh. Thanks for the image platinum. It’s now the header image of the post.

    30. Hermes — on 6th March, 2009 at 11:59 am  

      Sid, Platinum,

      That image is of a Neti pot, one used by Yogis for nasal clearance…not anal clearance!!!The Neti is part of an almost spiritual ritual, but then I guess so is wiping your arse in India. Thought I’d point this out in case you get bombarded by angry Yogis.

    31. Hermes — on 6th March, 2009 at 12:01 pm  

      Sid, Platinum,


    32. shariq — on 6th March, 2009 at 12:07 pm  

      Hermes, in my book that’s definitely a lota.

    33. Sid — on 6th March, 2009 at 12:13 pm  

      Hermes, are you sure? The neti-pot is, as in the image in the site you’ve linked to, has a straight spout. But the lota/bodna has a curved spout.

    34. Kulvinder — on 6th March, 2009 at 12:57 pm  

      Katy, the japanese - always at the forefront of bog technology - have a solution should you wish to retain your ladyness whilst the detritus of humanity, er, plops besides you.

      Just keep making flushing noises!

    35. Sofia — on 6th March, 2009 at 1:08 pm  

      can anyone come up with daily mail headlines on this one?

    36. Sofia — on 6th March, 2009 at 1:09 pm  

      “Neti pot, one used by Yogis for nasal clearance”…well it made it onto oprah…hehe..

    37. SKye-Vee — on 6th March, 2009 at 1:47 pm  

      #34 I also want one of those Japanese toilets. With heated seats, it has a bidet to wash your bum, with optional scented water. It then jets warm air to dry it. They also play mp3.

      Why would you ever want to leave? Just move your wide screen and laptop in the loo. Have a fridge on the side for beer and you are sorted. My whole office would be the toilet. Why do I have to come to my desktop to post this. I could have done from the lavatory.

    38. Sid — on 6th March, 2009 at 1:50 pm  

      I wonder whether those earnest eco-warriors in Plane-Stupid will be rigourously adopting the use of the lota and eschewing toilet paper anytime soon?

      I think we all know the answer to that.

    39. Leon — on 6th March, 2009 at 2:13 pm  

      Well some people do say we talk shit on PP, so I guess this post will be the proof they need…

    40. Adnan — on 6th March, 2009 at 3:12 pm  

      Free internet from google with a toilet connection:

      Apparently, it will be branded “Bundhband” internet in India.

    41. fug — on 6th March, 2009 at 3:48 pm  


      i think its quite likely that they are more likely than most white chocolate coloured folks to do so.

      green custard on mandelson. these folks are the new fathers for justice.

    42. damon — on 6th March, 2009 at 4:33 pm  

      I think the folks at Plane Stupid would be concerned by the ”carbon footprint” these manufactured jet spray hoses would have. (Made in China perhaps, and shipped halfway around the world - all that plastic and metal) - and all that water.

    43. Sid — on 6th March, 2009 at 4:55 pm  

      Indeed. One wonders why they use manufactured toilets at all. All that industrial ceramic, all that stainless steel, manufactured waste and water. Why don’t they shit in forests?

    44. Desi Italiana — on 6th March, 2009 at 7:08 pm  


      “Well some people do say we talk shit on PP”

      Wash your mouth…in a bidet :)

    45. The Queen of Fiddlesticks — on 6th March, 2009 at 7:32 pm  

      Umm, I think I am a bigger fan of recycling paper than doing away with it


      no trees or water lost -

    46. jyotsana — on 6th March, 2009 at 8:48 pm  

      Couldn’t agree more with Desi-I and the Oxbridge doctor she quotes. The failure of the Indian government to build and maintain an efficient system of sanitation is bad enough, but worse still is the burden this failure imposes on the most oppressed community of Indians, the safai karamcharis. Six decades of independence have meant little for the safai karamchari, in India, Nepal, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka. I am dismayed that the Indian government falling over itself in its attempts to appropriate a few baubles used by the good man, while doing nothing about following his personal example. Gandhi believed that communal distinctions cannot be done away with intellectually, and that we must live and work to confront the prejudices we harbour. Dr. Bindeshwari Pathak deserves the highest praise for his business-like endeavour to abolish manual scavenging and rehabilitate safai karamcharis in India. Watch this video about his organization Sulabh Shauchalaya http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=15amMIejJ_4.

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