In Hindsight

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Take the best from both worlds, I was advised on the eve of my emigration to the United States. Wise counsel, but in the daze of dislocation and culture shock that ensued I accepted many lifestyle changes indiscriminately, and not always wisely. Taking pride in my work: yes. Punctuality: yes. Positive attitude: yes. Sweaters: no. Jackets: yes. Frozen food: yes. Artichokes: maybe later. Toilet paper: yes.

This last one was not really a choice; it was the only option in my graduate-student dorm at Stanford. By the time I moved from there, like many immigrants, I had adjusted to using toilet paper and quite liked the idea of clean and dry bathroom floors that I found in America. On my visits back to India I would switch back to water, as if nothing had changed, ignoring the pink toilet paper my parents had thoughtfully installed in the guest bathroom of their home in Noida.

When relatives visited us from India, empty yogurt boxes, garnered from the kitchen cabinet, would appear in the bathrooms. I would shake my head disapprovingly at them. I took pride in the ease with which I had adopted the Western ways of personal hygiene and wished our visitors would do likewise.

That was until I developed hemorrhoids. For six years I consulted internists and gastroenterologists, and was examined and probed to no avail. Then I chanced upon a consultation with the eminent ayurvedic physician and teacher Vasant Lad. No cause for worry, he assured me after checking my pulse. My pitta dosha was out of balance, which over time had led to inflammation of the blood vessels. Poor personal hygiene was further aggravating the condition; wash thoroughly with water, he advised. His prescribed herbs and recommended diet helped bring the errant dosha back in balance. I was fine in two weeks.

After that I will never go back to toilet paper. But no yogurt boxes in bathrooms, either. There was an ad in India Currents for WaliWash (and I hesitate to write recommendations for products advertised in these pages, but must express my gratitude for this one), a modestly priced contraption designed by a colorectal surgeon, which converts a Western commode into a bidet. Except that it’s more hygienic than the French bidet because only fresh water splashes on your body. We had WaliWash retrofitted into our toilet with minimal plumbing. It’s hygienic and convenient, and requires no additional space in the bathroom. We still have toilet paper in the bathroom, but it’s rarely used.

Now that, I think, is the best of both worlds.

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