Crap with gravitas


Most of us treat shitting as just that, shitty and crappy –— an issue not worthy of second thought or, worse, a process that one has to put up with as a biological evil. That’s most unfortunate.

The only cure for this dismissive attitude towards the pleasure of a good morning download is constipation. And if anyone thinks that there is nothing profound, or at least profoundly satisfying about a good crap, he needs to see someone who is desperate to crap but can’t, or hasn’t, for a few days. Better still, he should go through the experience himself to realise the absolute importance of even a half-satisfying crap to a healthy and happy life, both private and social.

But before I go any further, it is perhaps appropriate that I should set down the epistemological basis of a column about crapping, a topic that would generally not be favoured by the more squeamish among us. Four broad reasons force me to write about it: the first should be obvious. I want to restore the issue to its rightful place, given how vital it is for the health and well being of all of us. In other words, it must not be treated as something all of us do but which should never be discussed in polite company except with a doctor and that too only when we either stop crapping or begin to crap more than would be considered normal. Incidentally, I also abhor figurative references to nonsensical talking or failure as crapping. Crapping successfully is a great success; to refer to it in the sense of failure or nonsense is crap…sorry, nonsensical.

Two, a friend recently narrated to me a conversation among some young women vexed by the question of how to crap after they had gotten married to their boyfriends. The normal response would be that they should crap the way everyone does. But the issue, apparently, was more complex than this. These women, who were putting their best foot forward while dating their men, had now realised that marriage was less glamorous than dating and when two people are living together 24/7, they do what everyone’s gotta do, which also means they have to crap. So they now worried about the sounds and the smell and the rest that goes with crapping. All of them had devised innovative methods of reducing the embarrassment of the act. This attitude I find unacceptable for something so useful, smell and all.

Three, having taken up a serious issue like post-coloniality in two previous columns, it is only right that I should now treat yet another important issue, in some ways even more relevant to the life of human beings –— from the First to the Third World —– than the interstitialities that post-coloniality purports to address. Indeed, in its necessity and universality, and given the embarrassment attached to it, it is probably more egalitarian than any other act performed by human beings.

Finally, and this is most important, a friend who has an eye for the absurd remarked the other day that the only but most thoughtful invention by Muslim scientists in the last 700 years of waning glory is the Muslim shower, a device generally unknown to the West –— some things must remain exclusive to the faithful –— but which is vital for the upkeep and cleanliness of Ummah’s underpinnings. However, as the friend remarked, the next step in this great invention should be an attempt by the faithful or the greater minds among them — —difficult though it is –— to ensure that the backsides from the Muslim east to the Muslim west should be able to get warm water during winters.

I told the friend that we should be thankful for the Muslim shower considering that until the arrival in these parts of the Portuguese, our lotas were without a base and hence prone to somersaulting from one position to another. Some such still exist but in more hallowed confines. The ones found in the toilets now have a base; the more advanced toilets have Muslim showers and the most advanced have the luxury of bidets. So until someone can graduate to a bidet, he will have to make do with the cold Muslim shower.

There are some other reasons too. Literature has many references to crapping and toilets. Erica Jong’s heroine Isadora Wing describes the toilets in various parts of the world in Fear of Flying and peoples’ attitudes to shitting, the German being the worst. Allen Ginsberg — who was obsessed with his anus for various reasons, including emulating the homoerotic poetic tradition from William Blake to Walt Whitman,— came to live in Calcutta and described how the Indians shat. He would often read out poems about crapping to audiences.

I recently also came across a blogger who titled a piece The Transcendence of Shit: A Global Perspective, a fairly well and wittily written diary, which begins with a joke: “What would you prefer, a good f*** or a good shit?” The punchline is “that a good shit is more enjoyable because you don’t have to hug it for two hours after you’ve had it.” One thing’s for sure; whoever thought of this joke has his priorities clear. He also, definitely, knows what it means to have a good crap even though most people in their superficiality would probably give the wrong answer to the question above.

Some weeks ago, fellow columnist Munir Ataullah used the word “fart” and then defended the usage on the grounds that if a spade may be called a spade so should a fart be called a fart. This is as reasonable as any argument can get, and reason Munir is fraught with. By the same token it is important not to brush the issue of shitting under the carpet or dilute its intensity by using terms like defecating (does anyone say he is going to micturate, which is an unnecessary obfuscation for plain, honest peeing? And making water… that’s the worst).

So peeing is peeing and crapping is crapping and both happen to the strong and the weak “tho’ they come from the ends of the earth!” Hence, there is need to look at crapping with gravitas. If this goes down well, maybe we could do it next week!!

This piece was originally published in Daily Times as The Other Column in December 2005.

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