Toilet: A Love Story
As comedies go, the lowly toilet has long been the brunt of many a comedic trope, potty humor being the universal go-to language when you need a sure thing. We laugh at bathroom humor the same way we laugh when someone unexpectedly slips and falls. We can’t help ourselves, chortling, snickering, and sinking into paroxysms of laughter if someone is clumsy enough to miss a step or a stair. Perhaps it’s a universal acknowledgement of the collective embarrassment we all feel when publicly caught doing something stupid so we laugh because it feels better than crying. The reaction starts from an early age when just whispering the word “fart” to a kindergartener can reduce them to giggles. Flatulence is something everyone experiences from time-to-time, yet because we just don’t like to admit these things out loud the universal response is to laugh, and that’s for 5 and 50-year olds alike .
Yet the cultural differences surrounding one’s toilette couldn’t be more divergent between the developed and developing worlds, and if you want to watch a comedic testament to this issue from the developing world, then watch Toilet, A Love Story, a 2017 comedic/drama directed by Shree Narayan Singh.
India has a population of 1.37 billion people, approximately 71% of which have access to a toilet, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-46400678 yet despite the governments massive toilet building campaign which began in 2014, approximately 30% of the country still practices open defecation. Approximately 90 million toilets have been built since the Indian government began this work, yet the country still struggles, and not always for the reasons you may think.
While India has been working hard to improve its water, sanitation and hygiene, or WASH, track record by eradicating open defecation, it has also received pushback from an unlikely place: the religious sector. As Toilet, A Love Story points out, many conservative religious groups believe that having a toilet in the house renders their home unclean, yet these same groups think nothing of having women arise before the sun, walk to the open fields to defecate as that’s how it’s always been done. And it’s not just the men who think this way; the women do, too, even though there is much evidence that open defecation leads to increased violence against women.
Toilet, A Love Story takes a light-hearted approach to the intractable problem of lack of access to WASH and offers real solutions. The movie is long, about 2.5 hours, and it’s in Hindi — a language spoken about twice as fast as a typical New Yorker — so the subtitles fly across the screen and sometimes it’s a little hard to keep up, but invest the time and you’ll be delighted you did, plus you’ll learn something in the process.
Toilet is available for streaming on Netflix and Youtube.
pam lazos 1.17.21