Monday, May 18, 2009

Bathroom Tamasha -1

I just read a hilarious post on European Bathrooms which brought memories of bathroom experiences rushing to my mind.

I've experienced the same sense of insecurity that Aparna describes in her post. It happened in a Pondicherry boarding school where I did my high school. The school was the Indian /English wing of the French school. French influence was heavy, what with nuns and matrons being French or francoindians (is there such a term?).

I had just returned from the summer vacation. We were told that the boarding was shifted from the magnificent Villa Maria to the English medium high school building (the high school had shifted to the suburbs). As the maids were lugging my suitcases to the dorm, I went in search of the toilet, the first destination of anyone after an overnight Kochin-Madras train journey followed by a torturous bus journey from Madras to Pondicherry.

Miss Aureli, our matron told me in her broken English that the attached bathrooms could only be used as lavs. The bathing arrangement was near the small quadrangle where the non resident students used to sit around and talk. Curious to know how they had converted that beautiful space into bathrooms, I rushed excitedly to the quadrangle. A few boarders were already there and were looking utterly dismayed.

“Where are the bathrooms?”

“There”, they pointed to the veranda that skirted the quadrangle. The veranda was partitioned into 15 bathing rooms with temporary partition material. There were no doors. Only green plastic curtains with floral prints taking over the function of doors!!

“Oh my God. How can we bathe with only the curtains as protection?” said I with all the Nazrani-upbringing-induced indignation and outrage.

“I refuse to bathe here”, said Uma Mahadevan. Her sister Latha echoed her words even more vehemently.

“Let's tell Mother Edel that we refuse to bathe if she doesn’t replace the curtains with doors” That was Gnaneswari, besides herself with r age. The little boarders shifted their gaze from one speaker to the other, their faces registering appropriate expressions.

“Come, let us go to Mother Edel”, said the brilliant Bharathi Balasubramanium.

“Here I am, girls”, said Mother Edel who had apparently been eavesdropping.

WE loved Mother Edel, the half Irish boarding mistress. Though a disciplinarian, she was the very epitome of fairness and impartiality.

"What’s your problem, girls?” asked Mother Edel gently.


“All fine?”

“Curtains”, blurted out the valiant Bharathi Balasubramanium.

“Pretty, aren't they?” She asked with a sweet smile.

”Yes”, whimpered the boarders.

"Freshen up, girls. I have lovely snacks waiting for you. Be in the dining hall in half an hour?” she said looking at her watch.

All of us nodded meekly.

She flashed another sweet smile and vanished.

Mother Edel was a stickler for punctuality. Half an hour to wash off all that dirt from the coal powered trains. We ran to the dorm, picked up the change of clothes and met in the quadrangle.

WE strategized quickly on how to indicate the occupancy of each bathroom.

“Put the pre- shower clothes on the curtain rod’, declared Gnaneswari.

Then we charged into the cubicular bathrooms. WE started out bath, each shouting out to the other, updating each other on the stage that each was in. Somehow, that gave us a sense of security.

And then nature played truant. A huge wind came from some where and up went the curtains!

WE screamed in unison.

Uma Mahadevan was always the one with great presence of mind.

“GRAB THE CURTAIN AND WRAP YOURSELF IN THEM”, she ordered thunderously.

We did as instructed and ended up with nothing but green floral plastic curtains wrapped around us and our head sticking out above the curtains and looking at each other, some laughing, some crying, some raising socialist slogans.

“Ennaamma?” said a male voice.

A young worker who’d been whitewashing the adjacent building, stood there, at the entrance of the quadrangle. Apparently, he had come to find out what the screams were about.

In rapid, hysterical Tamil, Uma Mahadevan and Lath Mahadevan and Bharathi Balasubramaium and Gnaneswari, and little Jayanthi, and the still more little Azhakarazi screamed at the boy, asking him to go away. I joined in with my Malayalam ‘poda, poda’.

By then the matron Aureli reached the quadrangle, all panting from transporting her heavy mass from the first floor.

She saw the boy looking bewildered at the sight of girls of all sizes wrapped in green floral plastic curtains, hurling abuses at him.

Miss Aureli shooed him away, and with the green floral plastic curtains wrapped around us, we poured all our woes to her. She nodded her wise head and assured us that she’ll arrange to have the tin doors of Villa Maria bathing rooms relocated to these bathrooms.

Till I completed my high school at Cluny, the plastic curtains remained. But, by then, we had learned to deal with eventualities of bathing with the protection of only a green, plastic curtain with floral prints.


  1. phew!!! That was a hindsight it seems funny though..but I can well imagine what it must have been like in real time.

  2. ayyo.....i couldnt stop laughing reading both yours and the one you linked to...;-D

    i can very well identify with the european bath culture...having had trouble adjusting in the beginning..after all i live in a country who are the proponents of free body culture!!! can scare the hell out of indians!! :-(

  3. Hilarious! It reminds me of the anecdote(?) about the quick-thinking female collegian : confronted with a male guest in the corridor as she tried to bolt to her room with only a hand towel instead of the regular bath towel, she covered up her most revealing feature: her face.

  4. That was hilarious :) :D

    Its a good thing that there wasn't a storm to make the curtains take off with people clutching on to them :D


  5. What a charming, lovely story!

    Bad experiences often make good material for a good laugh later on...

  6. Hahahahahahahahahahaha!!!!!

    To modify the hit song from the movie Hum dil de chuke sanam:

    "Jhonka Hawa ka aaj bhi"
    Curtains udata hoga na"

    Superb post! I was 'blown away' ;-)

  7. Hind sight tells me both our experiences are funny, though at that time I was hopping mad.
    Thanks for linking your post to mine. Cant tell you how many people came to my post from yours. I really appreciated it.

  8. ha ha ha...
    So Miss Aureli couldn't get the tin doors relocated fast.
    Reminded me about our hostel bathrooms and toilets with no water taps. Had to carry from a tank outside.

  9. Teacher,
    That was some story.

    Gone with the wind ;-) , right?


  10. agree wid Nikhik

    'Gone with the wind indeed'

    Spar post ma'am!

    'ablution' -word verification! Ithendhaa?? :)

  11. Is it just me or are all the boys feeling "if only..." :D

    That was a really funny story.. :)
    Loved the part where the bravado vanished in front of Sister Aureli..

  12. u're in for a surprise if u ever visit an offshore rig :D

    loved the post as usual!

  13. hello all
    thanks for the lovely comments.

    deepak-how naughty:-)

    ablution- washing up as in morning ablution. didnt try checking out in the dictionary?

  14. your blogs are fabulous.
    i loved the style of your pondy blog.
    and didnt i like the shopping blog?

    your bloggards seem to love you.
    kochuthresiamma chechiii !!!!
    he genuinely means it.
    feel proud of you.
    how could you have wasted 50 years?
    should have started much much early.

    keep blogging.
    immortalise me again!!!

    your fan & husband


Dear visitors, dont run away without leaving behind something for me :-)
By the way, if your comment does not get posted at the first click, just click once more.