From sky high to down under – well, sort of!

The Museum Series / Day 1

We are ashamed. It has been close to a year since we posted on our beloved blog, and no excuse is justified. The clutches of laziness and procrastination are unrelenting, and they’re precisely what caught us post-thesis.

However, two weeks ago we decided to rein in on our indolence and kick start our museum series, something we have been very excited about for a while now.

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The idea behind the series is quite simple really: Why do we go gaga over museums all over the world and not even bother visiting our very own ones before writing them off? Maybe they aren’t designed by a Hadid or a Foster, maybe they aren’t the most interactive, but how do we form an opinion without even giving them a chance? Well, we’ve learnt our lesson, and don’t quite fancy having to eat our words again (they’re not very appetising, surely you understand.)

Before we begin our adventure, a disclaimer: this series is not about us leading guided walks through the museums of Delhi. In this case we find ourselves as clueless as you (perhaps even more so). We will continue to create events and everyone is invited (we don’t bite), but this is more about exploring together, and (hopefully) busting some myths and having a great time even if the subject of our exploration smells of rat poop.

So, we began.

The day was a Saturday (now that we are slaves to work), the time 12pm (and sleep), and the places: in Palam, far far away, the Sulabh International Toilet Museum and the Indian Air Force Museum. We chose two museums which are close by- as the crow flies, that is. Sadly we are not crows, and would have to endure the perils of not having wings later in the day.

delhidallying 22We started off excited, and though they tried the best, the rain gods couldn’t dampen our spirits so early on in our adventure. Finding our way to the Sulabh Museum was not that hard, with edge enabled phones to our rescue. Now imagine the irony when you get to a toilet museum that prides itself in its plumbing prowess and find that its clogged and overflowing! We braved the rain (thanks to our trusty raincoat and umbrella) and waded through muddy water, pants rolled up and shoes in hand, to emerge on the other side: a large hall with a lot of middle aged men and some very cheery signage.

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However, we soon realized that in this case, a rainy day might not necessarily equal a museum day. Part of the museum was outdoors, in the spirit of true blue Indian habits. We couldn’t really explore the many types of pit toilets, examples of which were dug up in an open forecourt. We darted inside to the main museum, a medium sized hall with wall-mounted exhibits on the history of toilets and the habits of sanitation.

We were given a ‘short’ guided tour by one of the employees and were unabashedly told how we must not be embarrassed to talk about defecation and genitalia. When we broke into sheepish grins, he assumed an even more serious tone and told us how this was Mahatma Gandhi’s idea (of course). Gandhi spoke about  the idea of cleaning one’s own mess, which was basically taboo for higher castes in Indian society and the reason for the harijan (untouchable) community being treated the way they were. Sulabh takes that belief forward by providing easy sanitation solutions which makes waste disposal hassle-free and hygienic.

We saw some quirky exhibits like dried poop balls, biodegradable poop bags, victorian poop seats and poopy poems too!

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So was the museum (honestly) worth the hassle? We’re not sure. It’s clear that the proprietors have the best of intentions and our guide at least was very passionate about public sanitation. Maybe we have high standards because of our design education, but, honestly, the exhibits themselves weren’t very impressive and we spent a lot of time furtively critiquing the presentation. They have a strong base and a truckload potful of interesting information, but really need to amp up the wow. Still, as the only toilet museum on the world, it has major novelty value.
On a scale of ‘thumbs down’ to ‘awesome’ we give it a ‘passable’.

2013-07-20 13.00.09After the first half, we had a Dwarka lunch experience (read ‘no eateries’). With a hard-to-find Mcdonalds’s meal in our stomachs, we were quite happy to be heading to our second destination, the Air-Force Museum. Now this is the part where we wished ‘Wingardium Leviosa’ was for real. 3 hours, not a minute less, is what we took to cover a distance which would typically take half an hour. Adding to the traffic woes was our inability to actually locate the museum on ground – and not just on google maps. It was quite an experience: drowned cars, drowned cattle, drowned paan shops and their poor vendors – and then our car started smoking! There was smoke coming out of the bonnet, literally; apparently the engine was so hot that the rainwater vaporized. That bit had us worried and we had to waive the white flag and admit the second half of the day was a shitty effort (still not as much as the first half, though!).

So, we might have lost this particular skirmish but there’s a lot more ground to cover still! As they’re bound to say in the high seas of Delhi: Onwards ahoy!

Name: Sulabh International Toilet Museum

Address: Sulabh Bhawan, Mahavir Enclave,Palam Dabri Marg

Entry: Free

Thumb-o-meter: Passable (mostly for novelty)

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PS: Thanks Nivedita for making the effort of reaching the Sulabh museum in that horrid rain and we are sorry for being late! All you guys who missed DD’s first edition of the museum series, we hope to see you next time! 🙂

This post was co-written by Bhavika and Varun.

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