I did not expect this to happen. No, not exactly, but it is happy coincidence. I am sitting in the shade, this an early November afternoon, on a bench overlooking the little pond that dominates the main square in Paragpur a village in Himachal Pradesh. The water is still, behind a low pale blue wall, and gives no impression at all of life until the first of the fairly huge fish chooses to make its occasional loud splash and disappear again.
Across from me on the other side is a 2 storied building, grey slate tiled roof, white painted upper floor, and earthy red painted ground floor, a neat little projecting marking the separation of the two colours. Red, white and grey – a set of rather formal and complimenting colours. What strikes me slowly is their universality.
At the first instance this isn’t so apparent. But think again, red and white and grey, the Buddhist monasteries of Tibet, of Ladhak and Dharamasala, of Bhutan. The temples of Nepal. The Dzongs of Bhutan, the peoples’ houses, The colonial British buildings of the Raj, the Indo-Sarascenic Style, the Scot- inspired architecture of Shimla and Nainital, red-white- grey, St. Joseph’s College Nainital 1890, Dolmaling Nunnery, Dharamsala 1990.
This is not why I started to write, I started to write, because as I sit on the bench, to my right is a Sulabh Sauchalay, ( yes, I am coming back to that old post out of alwar: see blog post for March 2011) It isn’t out of place, it doesn’t jar, frankly other than an identifiable signboard one can barely tell the toilet from the rest of the place. No eyesore, no jarring, you wouldn’t notice it until you needed it.
It is quiet, it effortlessly finds its way into the frame of an ancient and delicately balanced village. With no disruption or intrusion into the spatial or visual experience of the village chowk and pond.
I have been sitting here for roughly three hours. Yes, the toilet is exactly 20 feet from where I sit, and feels perfectly in place. So does the red white and grey building across the pond, so does the pale blue pond wall, and the fish.
There are now four men sitting on the thin edge between the pond and the building, playing cards. The picture and the place both seem complete, and and yet in that complete-ness they seem like the perfect frame.
There is a reflection of the men playing cards on the waters surface, and I watch it from where I sit. A while ago there was an incessant whirring of the numerous toilors’ sewing machines on the street that leads out left from here.
In a quiet square, a quiet toilet, tucked quietly behind a well kept building.
And then I am reminded of the toilet at Humayun’s Tomb and the dastardly thing at the Royal Palace of Alwar.
Labels: heritage village, Paragpur, pond, Public toilet, public toilets, quiet, seamless