My cousin Ravi and his wife Rola (names changed on request) visited me after a long time. They had relocated to a distant country and were visiting India after more than a decade. Like most people who visit India after a long time, they too were distressed about the condition of the roads, trains, buses, airports and most of all, of public toilet facilities in the country. The conversation led to the high tech facilities outside India, which make life comfortable for tourists. In this context they recalled an incident which makes me wish that someone would impress upon the Minister for Overseas Indians the imperative need to arrange orientation sessions for Indians who go abroad for the first time, in order to familiarize them with the high tech features in public facilities - or they would be caught in terribly embarrassing situations like Ravi and Rola who made their first European tour some twenty years back on a shoestring budget.
It happened in Switzerland, which, they swear, had the most sophisticated, high tech tourism facilities in the world. It was their first foreign tour and they traveled through the whole of Europe by Euro Rail. In Switzerland, while they were in transit in a station, they decided to use the paid shower facility, about which a fellow traveler had told them. It would be much cheaper than checking into a hotel to freshen up.
The minimum rate for a shower was 5 dollars for 8 minutes. Wincing at the thought of parting with 10 dollars for 2 baths, Ravi waited outside the shower unit while its door was being programmed for 8 minutes at the cash counter. As the door of the shower opened, Ravi got a brainwave. He shouted out to Rola to get into the shower along with him and take a quick bath. That way, he could kill two birds with one stone, and the other stone – 5 dollars - would remain safe in his pocket.
Rola had no time to think, ‘cos Ravi was frantically yelling out that that the door would close automatically and she would be locked out - and the poor girl literally hopped into the shower. The door closed. They quickly disrobed - and then the trouble started.
They had no inkling as to how to start the shower.
The familiar tap, which turns the shower on and off back home in India, was nowhere to be seen. They pushed/pressed/pulled every button, every lever, and every handle in the shower room, but the water refused to flow. They started a frantic search for some clue. Rola searched on her side of the wall while Ravi, searched on his, and then he literally crawled on all fours to find out if there were any hidden taps or switches or buttons on the floor. So preoccupied were they with the exercise of trying to decode the shower-operating trick that they didn’t realize that the 8 minutes were over. And horror of horrors! The door of the shower room opened automatically. Within seconds, the outer door of the shower room also opened and in walked a lady with fresh towel and soap for the use of the next customer. Her jaw dropped when she saw the two of them in the shower, in a state of total undress. What could poor Ravi and Rola do other than strike that classic Adam and Eve post-sin pose?
Rola, however, was the first to recover. Sheepishly, she asked the lady how to operate the shower. The lady was very helpful and assured them that she’d extend the time for another 8 minutes and left but not before looking at them with a mischievous smile and remarking “Indians having fun?”