Contributing around the corner.

There is so much we pretend doesn’t exist. Our daily ablutions for instance. We all do it, we all need to, it satisfies us and gets us ready for the day, but we never talk about it. We use euphemisms to get by (ablution for instance), or politely express the need to go around the corner. So when on my first day at Sadhana Forest, a volunteer took me to the loo for a demo, you can imagine my discomfort. I almost wanted to say that I can skip this part – I mean, I know how to do my business even if I pretend I never have to. But, I held my peace.

So why on earth did a 31-year-old need a demo on this? Allow me to explain. I was about to spend two weeks as a volunteer at Sadhana Forest – a project based in Auroville, which works towards reforestation and water conservation. And the forest was a no-frills, vegan only place with a zero waste policy.

 And the demo was essential because this was no ordinary loo. It was a large enclosure made of bamboo with a thatched roof and two contraptions in the centre – one a big hole covered with a lid and second, an Indian style toilet. Other than these, there was a small vessel (soon to be labeled pee pan) with a handle, a big drum full of sawdust, another big drum with water and neem leaves and a can labeled ‘pee’. All of a sudden, going to the loo felt like a task, especially considering I was to do everything and be ready for work by 6:15 am. It wasn’t the kind of loo where you could doze off on the pot or admire yourself in the mirror for hours. This loo was serious business and required substantial hand – eye coordination.

Because this is how it worked – walk into the loo, fill a mug of water from the drum and place it over the lid. Then assess if you want to pee, poop or both.

  1. If you want to pee (and it isn’t urgent) – pick up with pee pan with the handle and go for it. Once done, pour the pee in the pee can and rinse the pee pan and clean yourself up with the water you kept aside before (see how important this first step is).
  2. If you want to pee, and it is urgent – use the Indian style loo and wash up afterwards
  3. If you want to poop – lift the large lid off the floor, aim for the hole and hope for the best. Once done, sit over the Indian style loo and wash up. Then take 3 – 4 cups of sawdust and cover your poo well. Replace the lid and go on your way.
  4. If you want to pee & poop, get ready for some serious acrobatics here – lift the large lid off the floor, aim for the hole and place the pee pan to catch your pee. Once done follow instructions for scenarios 1 & 3.
  5. And for any eventful times, use sawdust and a squeegee to ensure you leave the place almost as you found it, barring, of course, your contribution.
And this time ‘contribution’ was no euphemism – contribution were what my pee and poo became for the two weeks I was at Sadhana. While the shower and the loo were always known to house my invisible muse, this contribution was by far the most significant.  Because after all this effort, after the acrobatics and, the initial discomfort, I had the pleasure of knowing that one day, my pee mixed with charcoal, and my poo mixed with soil will be used to plant a tree that will serve the earth for years to come.

Could there be an easier contribution or a more satisfying one? I think not.

Text by Tintu Saleem. Photo by Sukrit Nagaraj.

Read more about Sadhana Forest here.

4 Comments Add yours

  1. ajaymenon0 says:

    Never gonna poop the same way every again!


    1. Tintu Saleem says:

      Imagine the combined loss of potential every morning.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: Tintu Saleem

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