Introducing the Typical Indian Bathroom

by Sharell शारेल on April 29, 2010

in Adjusting to India, Daily Life in India

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This is a photo of our bathroom. The bathroom is my least favourite room in the house. Despite the fact that I am quite used to it now, I was recently reminded by some visiting Americans as to why I dislike Indian bathrooms so much.

If you look carefully at the photo, you’ll most likely notice a number of things that aren’t common in American (or even Australian) bathrooms. The number one thing is the set up of the shower. Yes, that’s a shower head at the top of the photo (next to what is the hot water heater). And no, there isn’t a screen separating it from the toilet area.

That’s right folks, it’s a “wet” bathroom! The Americans were simply astounded by it. When taking a shower, the water goes all over the floor, the walls, and the toilet seat — then finally runs down a drain on the bathroom floor.

Now, there are a couple of other factors to take into consideration in this arrangement. Look again and you’ll notice a bucket in the bathroom. No Indian home is complete without at least one bucket and one small “mug” (there will usually be more).

Many Indians, my husband included, prefer to take a bucket bath rather than a shower. This involves filling a large bucket up with water and tipping it over oneself with the smaller mug. This method of bathing minimises the amount of water that goes everywhere. Generally, it will be restricted to the floor, rather than the toilet seat and walls as well. But despite this, there is no avoiding getting the bathroom floor covered in water. Hence, the need for the cleaning implements shown in the bathroom photo. Wiping down the floor is a constant activity.

I must admit, the first time I stayed in an Indian house with a “wet” bathroom (and just a tiny drain hole to one side), I had no idea how to go about using it. I couldn’t fathom getting the floor (and every other surface) wet. It’s just not the done thing where I come from. So, I filled a large bucket up with water, stood in it, and attempted to wash myself. Seriously. Then, I had no idea where to tip the dirty water. So, I left it there! Sad, but true.

The most troublesome thing about the “wet” bathroom is how dirty the floor becomes if water is left on it, and people walk though it when going to the toilet. What I’m really dismayed about, is that in almost every “wet” bathroom that I’ve encountered in India, the shower is positioned closest to the door and the toilet on the other side of it. This means that you certainly must walk across a wet floor to get to the toilet. I just can’t understand why the shower wouldn’t be located to the far side of the bathroom, and the toilet near the door. It would make the toilet more accessible. And keep most of the water away from the entrance. But, no.

So, I spend as little time as possible in the bathroom. I just do the bare necessities and get out. And I never feel very clean after being in there either! But still, at least the bathroom is functional.

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© Copyright 2010 Sharell शारेल, Diary of a White Indian Housewife 2008-2014. All Rights Reserved. Do not copy and reproduce text or images without permission.

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{ 212 comments… read them below or add one }

ASG January 17, 2012 at 10:46 am

Before i read your post I never thought that there is something called a ‘wet bathroom’. Wet rf not u have a bathroom. Otherwise u would have to hit the fields every morning with a LOTA. By the way lota is a metal pot which is used for a lot of things for eg offering water to the gods. We have separate lotas for all purposes.

Thanks for stimulating my creative juices. Now, whenever I use the squat toilet, I feel that I am doing a cultural thing. I look at all things be it the jadoo, Indian bathroom and the toilet in a new light. Thanks for a stirring my soul. You have aroused the writer in me.

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Rukhsana February 2, 2012 at 12:01 pm

Most of the clients I design for feel that the toilet seat should be pushed to the corner of the bathroom and hopefully become invisible because it is considered dirty. Usually I convince them to go in for the split bath and w.c., that’s more the Indian style and very convenient when you live in a joint family!

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chumee March 6, 2012 at 12:23 pm

You cannot be serious! I have used this style of bathroom, :D but those were the days. I live in Mysore (a teeny weeny itty bitty city no where close to the size or modernity of Mumbai), and we have shower cubicles and bath tubs and yes… even shower curtains!
As someone mentioned, in India the W.C. is considered dirty so the further away the better (sometimes it’s hidden behind the door).
I know it’s been a year since you posted this, but here’s a tip when I’m forced to use a bathroom of this nature. Lift up the toilet seat when you bathe, so the seat doesn’t get wet! Just watch out that you don’t drop the soap into the toilet though. ;)

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chumee March 6, 2012 at 12:26 pm

*sorry… it’s been 2 years hasn’t it? Hope your bathroom is better by now.

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bawa September 23, 2012 at 5:34 pm

The good thing is that it does get thoroughly cleaned out everyday/time; the worst thing in the world must be fully-carpeted UK bathrooms when I went there in the 1980s!!!!

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Sharell शारेल September 23, 2012 at 5:58 pm

Oh, those carpeted bathrooms!! I encountered them in the UK when I was there in 1997!!!! Couldn’t believe it.

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Lou September 24, 2012 at 8:21 pm

I freeked when I saw your ‘wet’ bathroom, absolutely no regard for ‘health and safety’ with those electricity plugs everywhere!!

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Sarah October 12, 2012 at 3:02 am

Same here in Israel! I hate that even with the big ‘squeegee’, the floor is still wet for a while after the shower. This way if you have to go to the bathroom to do anything soon after a shower (toilet, makeup, etc.), you are sliding around and making a dirty mess. Not all bathrooms are like that here, but it’s really common.

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Roni November 24, 2012 at 12:29 pm

Hey Sarah,
I’m also from Israel and I never saw a “wet” bathroom here in my life…!
Shower curtains are the way to go if you’re renting or otherwise don’t have the money to get a shower enclosure/cubicle. The thing about Indian “wet” bathrooms, though, is that even if you were interested in putting up a screen – you can’t! That’s because of the amazingly compact layout of the bathroom. It’s crazy.
Hope both of your bathrooms have improved by now ;)

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Raji January 23, 2013 at 8:13 am

When I was in India, I had bath tub with shower and screen. Didn’t have to get the floor wet to take bath.

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Sharell शारेल January 23, 2013 at 10:37 am

Were you staying in a luxury hotel? ;-)

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Dev February 2, 2013 at 2:54 am

I got yelled by my landlady in Germany when i tried to wash the bathroom with water only to find out that there was no drain. She caught me when the bathroom was already flooded and I was frantically trying to wipe out the water :)

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Sharell शारेल February 2, 2013 at 7:07 pm

Oh Dev, that’s hilarious! Sorry, I can’t help giggling.

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Alexander July 13, 2013 at 9:36 am

Unfortunately in Russia most of flats have no draining hole in the floor, so you and/or your neighbors can get flood if leakage occurs. Probably the draining holes are in luxury flats only and, maybe, in some new-built apartment buildings.

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Global Indian February 17, 2013 at 1:23 pm

This reminds me of a not so popular Indian stereotype!!!And it goes something like this:

Test to confirm you are indian :
1)You are Indian if you have atleast one bucket (and possibly a mug) in your bathroom.
LOL

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Sharell शारेल February 17, 2013 at 3:20 pm

Oh gosh! The buckets!! I remember how shocked and amazed I was by the collection of buckets in Indian bathrooms… and then I started my own collection. ;-)

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Debabrata March 4, 2013 at 9:37 pm

Hi Sharell.
This is my first comment on your blog. I don’t remember how I ended up being here and I have absolutely no I idea how this happened to be one of the first article from you that I read! Anyways, its really interesting how absolutely ridiculous some Indian ways might seem to you (and probably even are). But I am positive you found things that are equally fascinating as well, after all you ended up staying here! I think it would be interesting to read your list of things that you absolutely hate about India and things that you love. Having said that I have got a few observations and a confessions on the topic at hand. First of all being from a semi rural background I must tell you most people in India don’t have a bathroom that is attached to the house since the it isn’t considered proper. Hell, many people don’t even have a bathroom, but that is a whole different discussion. In many places, mostly outside cities, people often have a separate toilet and bathroom and that is not untrue for many villages too. Now the confession, despite my fairly modern worldview I had never heard of the concept of a dry bathroom before this this article of yours! It might seem strange to you though I would like to thank you for this introduction! I hope to revisit your blog soon enough. Bye. Take care!

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swati July 12, 2013 at 1:53 pm

Hi sharell,

Your blog is very interesting.. throughly enjoyed reading it…

The idea of having the WC at the far end of the bathroom is that you dont accidently brush against it after you have had a shower…. and most of the people will do a small pooja after the shower.. so it is not considered appropriate to touch the WC and then pray to god…

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Jen October 3, 2013 at 8:38 pm

We have a special pair of bathroom slippers just for going back and forth between the toilet to the door of the bathroom. We’ve also gotten used to having to wipe the bathroom after showering. The electric outlets and having to use our washer in the bathroom still freak me out though.

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Marilyn January 15, 2014 at 12:20 pm

Wow it’s amazing to think that I’ll have that lifestyle soon… It seems VERY different but definitely a new type of “adventure”. I too am American, from Southern California, and this is amazing for me to see how different an American life is compared to a Desi life.

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Kanika January 20, 2014 at 2:40 pm

It’s embarrassing, I guess it’s true, and I have never figured out the reason for the weird bathroom either. The other is when people have Western WCs but don’t feel the need for any toilet paper at all. I am SO scared of using people’s loos because I worry that the seat will be wet and there won’t be any paper! Of course, in a bathroom like the one pictured here, I guess there wouldn’t be much point because everytime someone showered, it would be wet pulp on a roll! However, the ones I mostly encounter have shower curtains or a glass screen, and a raised stone strip to separate the shower area from the rest of the bathroom…so I guess one has to get these installed if they don’t exist. And yes, I can’t figure out why the living room has to be big enough for an elephant’s reception, and every bedroom has to have an attached bath but each bath is so tiny that you knock your elbow everytime you turn around! Sigh!

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