Toilets + India = viewer discretion is advised.

The toilet situation in India is startling, at least for those of us accustomed to indoor plumbing. A newspaper article celebrated the country’s improving living standards, noting that 47% of Indians now have a toilet inside their house, up from 36.4%.

A Hindustan Times headline also caught our attention: Good news from census: Indians better off, but ignore sanitation. It reports that “Indians enjoy a better standard of living than a decade ago but they are spending more on TV sets and mobile phones rather than sanitation.” Come to think of it, the televisions we encountered in India did work better than the toilets.

Then there’s the water. Back in Thailand, we started treating tap water with iodine and stopped buying so many plastic water bottles. In India, we severely scaled back our eco-initiative. We had seen too much. People pooping in the streets, corpses floating in the river that supplies water to almost half the nation… I’ll stick with bottled water, thank you. The census also found that 43.5% of Indians use the tap as a source of drinking water. They’re braver than I.

The labels on those plastic water bottles ask that you crush them when empty. At first, I thought it was so they would take up less space in landfills (or along the side of the road), but I was later informed that beating up the bottles prevents enterprising people from filling them with tap water and reselling them.

Crushing bottles… it’s not just safer, it’s fun!

Despite all our precautions, Karen and I joined legions of travelers before us and got sick in India. Multiple times. Suffice it to say: we know Indian toilets a bit more intimately than we’d like.