When I embarked on this project to restore and refurbish my ancestral home, a significant portion of the budget and design thoughts went to the toilets. We have four toilets, and I am very proud of these toilets. When the toilets were completed, I posted a picture of the toilets in my blog.
No joke, it was a first rate toilet. My experience with the the kerawit, the lack of proper toilets when I was a kid, my phobia with the jamban angkat or the menial toilets, my exposure to toilets in the UK drove this obsession with toilets.
I can relate to the many different types of toilet designs. If you study the change in the toilet designs you will come to the conclusion to how technological development has a direct bearing on toilet behavior of people.
I sometimes tagged nenek doing a sleepover at Nek Som’s, her sister. I dreaded staying over. Toilet meant going to the back of the house, behind some bushes, with a cangkul in your hand. You dug, do your things and cover it up again, not unlike the manner the cat does it minus the sensing.
The Nek Sum method was quite similar in concept with the practice of those who live by the sea in Terengganu. I once stayed at the Primula hotel in Kuala Terengganu. Looking down at the beautiful beach from your 10th floor room in the morning you would see people walking to wards the edge of the water. Soon you see them with their batik sarongs over their heads .
Then there is the Tok Mian’s design. It is a pretty simple design. A hole is dug or a disused kolam or kolam buta, put two pieces of planks over it, and erect a barrier or screen around for privacy. Not a pretty sight if you happen to peep down. Imagine missing the step.
There were those who felt that building a structure were easier then digging a kolam. So a wooden platform is erected with a stair case going up with the screen for privacy.
The easiest and with the least of investment is to use the parit. The only shortcoming is that you could only do it during the nights. Every house had a titi or plank to cross the parit and that served as your launching pad.
One fine afternoon the kampung was a buzz that there would be a wayang tonight at the school padang. I could only remember the filem negara tiger. During the intermission the subject of the day was ” Hpw to construct the Jamban Jirus”. For a budding engineer I must say It was a very innovative design.
A hole is dug, as far away from your well. Using a galvanized zinc sheet a channel is created to link the toilet to the hole. You carry a pail of water to the toilet and to clean up and to clear the deposits.
This design was further improved when proper toilet bowls and clay pipes were available. When my fourth sister was to get married that was the development project my abah undertook. He constructed it by himself. It was located on the right side of the house, visible from the main road. It was a novelty.
There are many hilarious anecdotes I hear from My Malay College seniors about toilets. There is of this 1950’s story of a budding engineer, a young lad from Terengganu, who was reported missing from his bunk only to be found in the toilet repeatedly doing the flushing and observing the filling. THere is also this celebrated story of a young man who, instead of going to the toilet was caught peeing from in between the balustrade of the upper floor of the Kings Pavilion. The House master was that famous Anthony Burgess and this story is narrated in his Autobiography.
I confess I used to do that in my kampong house.
To many of us kids, who went to England in the seventies, it took a lot of adjusting to the beautiful toilets of our foster parents home. The first thing my landlady brought us to after our first night was to teach us to flush the toilet. No wetting of the carpet, flush after use, do not squat. I also learnt to read while doing my stuff. I learned to enjoy the my time on the throne.
When I came back from England, I had a difficult time adjusting to do the squatting.
When my kids became reluctant to go back to the kampung because of the toilets, I was determined to prove that my kampung toilets would be better then the ones in the five star hotels.