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Delhi toilet museum flush with history.

New Delhi How many of us would get inspired by a visit to Madame Tussaud's wax museum in London to follow in her footsteps? Dr Bindeshwar Pathak, founder of Sulabh International Social Service Organisation, did in the early 1990s. Except with a twist. Since he was involved in low-cost sanitation, he decided to do something similar in his field.

Letters sent to a hundred embassies and high commissions soliciting information met with an overwhelming response. Inundated with replies from 60 embassies, Pathak set up the Museum of Toilets in 1993.

Located on the outskirts of Delhi on the Palam-Dabri road, it is probably the only one of its kind in the world. The museum comprises a rare collection of facts, pictures and specimens of the humble EoAC" and some not so humble EoAC" pot.

Detailing the evolution of toilets from over 20 countries, it gives a chronology of developments made for over 4,500 years in the technology and social customs attached to toilets.

The museum has an extensive display of chamber pots, toilet furniture, bidets and water closets in use from 1145 AD onwards.

A tour shows several interesting facts and objects. We learn that King Louis XII of France had a commode under his throne, from where he discharged his duties! The replica of his throne-cum-commode is on display at the museum. Strangely enough, while the king preferred to eat in privacy, he chose to relieve himself in public.

Dr Pathak said: "Million of Indians do the same, though out of necessity EoAC" not regal whim!"

Visitors to the museum have a good laugh at the replicas and anecdotes. One caricature reads: "It hasn't been flushed ever since Michael Jackson used it!" Another reveals that Queen Victoria's toilet was decorated with gold.

The museum also details how the bidet made its first appearance in 1701 in Versailles, France. Toilets in the medieval period were bright and cheerful, and it was in 1739 AD that separate toilets for males and females emerged on the occasion of a ball held in the heart of Paris. The first public toilet in the French capital was built in 1824.

In the 19th century, beautiful WCs appeared with designs of lions, dolphins and flowers. A double-storey model on display has a demarcation between toilets meant for the management and those for other employees.

In India, toilets were initially situated far away from homes. Later they moved into the courtyard and eventually indoors. According to documents in the museum, the first sanitation bill in India was introduced in 1878. Thereafter, it became mandatory to construct toilets in the slums of Calcutta, India's then capital.

India still has a long way to go to provide toilet facilities to several million homes, but the museum comprises a Japanese piggy bank toy that imparts toilet training to children. Drop a coin in the toy, only to hear a flushing sound! The idea: to imbibe the habit of flushing in children.

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Publication:Gulf News (United Arab Emirates)
Geographic Code:9INDI
Date:Jul 16, 2011
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