One day I called Badri Narayanji, the local leader of my community, to get a recommendation letter from him. His private secretary answered the phone and said, “Sahib is in the bath room, call back later.”
I thought, when Badri Narayanji is in the bath room, then, why shouldn’t I visit my bathroom? We must emulate our leaders. A little later I came out of the bathroom and made the phone call. The answer came, “Sahib is in the bath room, call back later.”
“When will Sahib come out of the bathroom?” I enquired hesitantly with a trembling voice.
“You are a strange man. There is no fixed time for death to arrive and sahib to come out of the bathroom. Sahib is in the bathroom, he is going to come out sooner or later. What is the hurry?” the private secretary blared.
I started thinking about the good old days when neither Badri Narayanji nor I had a bathroom in our houses.
Those were the days. Without the help of a private secretary or a telephone, we would sit in the open field, meet during the early morning hours or in the evening, even talk about the important matters or current events, looking in different directions, away from ourselves, and sometimes repeating “hello, hello” to continue the conversation.
In the meantime, I thought of making a phone call to the officer, who insisted that I bring a recommendation letter from Badri Narayanji to advance my job promotion papers. I was afraid the officer will also have a private secretary and he will also have a safe place called the bathroom. I received a straight answer, “Sahib is in the bathroom.”
I said to myself, “It’s time for me to visit my bathroom.” I smiled at my own simple thought. A common man is not that lucky to spend most of his time in the bathroom. A poor man is hardly able to visit the bathroom once a day. Because of my ill fortune, I might spend most of my time in the drawing room or bedroom. Tell me; are these the places worth living in the house? In a sense, it is a good thing. If a common man started living in the bathroom then how would it be possible to run the country? The difficulty is that we cannot put the country in the bathroom.
Anyway, I called Badri Narayanji an hour later, and before his private secretary could send him in the bathroom, I posed a question and said, “Hello, is Badri Narayanji still in the bathroom?”
“Your sense of smell seems to be very strong. You are so far away, but still found out that Sahib is in the bathroom.”
“Brother… that is not the case. An hour earlier I called to talk to him when I was told that he is in the bathroom. If he has left the bathroom, I thought, I would have a chance to talk to him about an important matter.”
“An hour earlier his private secretary had sent him to the bathroom. Now I am on duty.”
“So it seems it is your duty to send him to the bathroom.”
“My duty will start after he leaves the bathroom; he is still in there.”
The telephone receiver fell from my hand and I could hear the laughter and words, “wrong number… wrong number.”
This telephone system is very strange. You come to know about a wrong number only when you are informed about it. I dialed Badri Narayanji’s number but it connected me to a different place. We put Badri Narayanji in a mansion and he went and occupied the bathroom. It is not the telephone exchange’s fault. Not a single day goes by when I call a leader and am informed that they are not in the bathroom. Since leaders have started spending more and more time in the bathroom, the concept of human beings and home has completely changed. The day before yesterday I was in my drawing room when the phone rang. My wife picked up the phone.
“Yes, he is in the bathroom.”
I looked at her and enquired, “Do we have a guest in our home? I am sitting in front of you, then who is in the bathroom?”
“You, it is you, who else?”
I got very angry and upset. “But I am sitting right here.”
She said, “I know that you are sitting here. It is also my desire to see you become a leader. You have a right to become a leader. I have always seen that whenever you call a leader he is in the bathroom. And you sit here in the drawing room; swat the flies trying to kill them. I have a desire to be called the wife a leader. From today on, you start living in the bathroom. If you don’t want to do it, I will go in there.”
There was a time when the bathroom was way over there, like Australia in a world map, separate and located all by itself. But now it seems bathroom is house itself. One time I had seen an advertisement that said, “Need to rent a beautiful and a large bathroom. It is OK if it has an attached bed room, if no attached bedroom, still it is OK.” I immediately knew that the person is suffering from stomachache. I later found out it is an advertisement from a local leader. Stomach is bad news; it elevates a leader and a common man with diarrhea and puts them at the same level.
Once I had the honor of visiting the bath room of a leader. I was stunned. It was so huge that my whole house could be placed inside it. It was decorated with beautiful tiles, large mirrors, and attractive lights. I was so overwhelmed and impressed by the nuance that I left the bathroom without using it.
I asked the leader, “I am convinced about your courage. You are using such a beautiful place as your bathroom. I cannot gather courage to make a decision like that. If you permit me, I will use it as my bedroom.” The leader never invited me back again in his house.
Friend! Do not get the wrong idea that I am against bathrooms in houses. The only thing I want to say is that leaders have changed the concept of living and are now living in their bathrooms. Then, why do they have telephones in their drawing rooms. They should hook up their telephones in their bathrooms; even move their dining tables in there.
All the time the common man spends, sometimes up to five years, trying to meet his leader and he finds out that the leader is sitting in his bathroom.
This essay is from the Mujtaba Hussain’s Urdu book “Mujtaba Hussain Ki Behtreen Tehreerein” published by Hasan Chisti Sahib and printed by Educational Publishing House, New Delhi-6, India in 2001. I have obtained permission from Mujtaba Husain Sahib and Chisti Sahib. The title of the essay is “Sahib bathroom may hai.n” – Mohammad Yacoob