Finding toilet paper in India and going to the toilet in India can be a precarious proposition. Most times, your only option is a squat toilet (and simply holding on and aiming into the loo of a swerving train is a challenge worthy of a gymnast). And if there is a Western-style seated toilet, it can be dirty, so you have no choice but to hover over it, giving your quads a real workout. Then there’s the question of toilet paper in India. Or rather, there isn’t any toilet paper in India – except in better hotels and restaurants and very few homes. So, here are some pointers on using the loo in India the India Mike way. 

Stock up on Toilet Paper

Most urban Indians have western toilets in their homes and offices, but don’t count on toilet paper. Most India Mikers have learned to carry small packet of tissues with them. These are available at any general store or chemist and will put you out maybe Rs. 10. While you’re there, also buy a mini bar of soap (and a small ziplock for that, too ... but more on that later)

So you have some toilet paper, but is it safe to flush it down the toilet? If you’re using a western toilet, it is usually ok to flush down used toilet paper, but if there’s a disposal basket, trash them there instead. The reason being that the sewerage system in India isn’t great, and your toilet paper may do far more damage than good. The basket next to the toilet is there for a reason!

If it’s an Indian squat-style loo, your tissue contribution will clog some pipe in there sooner than later. If there’s a bin, chuck toilet paper there. A handful of India Mikers have suggested carrying a zip lock bag for stashing and later disposing used toilet paper,  but that’s a bit high on the ick factor. So flush if you must, just use as little toilet paper as possible.

Umm ... So, What’s the Bucket for?

 Using the toilet in India By olias
So, here’s a tip for when you’re eating with an Indian family, especially in their home. Let’s go back and underscore that: especially in their home… food is served and eaten only with your right hand. Don’t even pass someone the salt cellar with your left hand. The left hand is unclean.

Why? Because the left hand is what is used to wash bums.  Is your mind boggled? Ok, here’s how it’s done: with the right hand, fill a mug of water from the provided bucket and reach round back, pouring a steady stream on to your nether regions. That ‘unclean’ left hand goes back between your legs, and splashes and wipes the poured water on the back end.

If you are in someone’s bathroom and they have two buckets, rule of thumb is to use the smallest one for any toilet washing, as the larger one is probably to bathe themselves with.

The other new-fangled option that’s gaining some traction is the washpipe – a little hose with a press-faucet that you can use instead of the mug and bucket. Think of it as an Indian bidet. Usually there’s enough pressure that you may keep your left hand in your lap the whole time, but you can mix and match techniques at will.

When you’re done, wiggle for some air drying – or use a minimal amount of tissue to dry off, then stand, wash hands in sink with lots of soap, and pull your pants back up. Or, if the sink is outside the WC (!) first dress, then wash hands.

If there's a choice

Roll up your trousers and go with the Indian toilet. At least you won’t make contact with anything.  You may also find it more challenging to use water on a western style toilet, because the seat gets in the way.  If you really prefer to use a seat, then just lift your rear end up a bit first.

The Hand-Held Sprays and the "Bum Guns"

Many modern toilets in hotels, shops and even homes have a toilet spray. They can be found in Indian-style toilets as well as Western ones. Sometimes the spray is a thing of the past, and just the hose is there. That makes it a little trickier as you have to control it with the tap. When you use a spray, check out the pressure first. Usually it is low --- but you do not want to be scraping your eyeballs off the ceiling.

This takes no particular skill to use, and once you are used to it, you may find going home to toilet paper to be unwelcome and disgusting!

There is one more type of bum-gun which is fixed onto the throne, and pre-focused to shoot out water at the right spot. You simply have to turn a knob on the wall. The nozzle of the outlet is small, and the force of water is high. Since people come in different sizes, it requires a bit of wiggling one's bottom for a proper wash. A little bit of movers and shakers makes the wash perfect. This type of rim bum-gun takes use of left hand/right hand/toilet paper etc completely out of the equation. Brings in a bit of bum-swinging.

Just like hand sprays, test the device first, so as to understand the force of the flow, so that a sudden twist of the knob does not cause an unwanted splash of water. Also, if the installation is old, the bum-cannon might have lost its focus and may shoot water at wrong places. Wet and dripping cheeks aren't always funny. In such cases, more moving of the bum is required. Such toilets are usually found in private residents than in hotels or public toilets. Such devices are more common in and around North and North-West India, especially Delhi.

Are There Other Options?

 
Fixed bum-gun. The design of the toilet in the picture also allows a person to squat on the seat. Fixed bum-guns are of no use in such a scenario.Some IM-ers suggest trying She Pee if you are a woman and really don’t fancy putting your rear on a soiled toilet seat, they let you pee standing up so no contact is had. You can find out more about the device on this thread about using toilets on trains.

Somewhere along the way, IM-ers will realize that most public loos consider soap optional. But since you already bought that mini soap when you bought the tissue, you are, of course, all set. (And now you also know why to avoid food served or mixed by hand in restaurants and street stalls).

More tips, descriptions and stories on using the toilets can be found on this toilet advice in India thread and this discussion about washing your bum with a bucket (!).