Tag Archives: toilet paper

Lota in the Loo

Winston Churchill famously said, “Never let a crisis go to waste.”  But even during the most desperate times, Winnie’s wit carried the day. So perhaps today, while a virus wends its way across the world, we can take a deep breath (while practicing social distancing) and smile.

To be sure, the coronavirus presents a rather serious crisis. It’s so bad that people have convinced themselves that there are shortages that don’t really exist. The opening sentence from Michael Corkery and Sapna Maheshwari’s New York Times March 13, 2020 article titled, “Is There Really a Toilet Paper Shortage?” captured the madness: “If there’s one image that captures the panic sweeping through the United States this week, it might be the empty store shelves where toilet paper usually sits.”

I went to my local Costco to see if this madness could possibly be true. Were otherwise intelligent people actually hoarding rolls of soft, perforated white paper whose only function was arse-cleaning? Were they willing to wait over an hour in line just to enter the warehouse store to buy massive amounts of this Western brainchild of the inventor who named it after himself: Gayetty’s Medicated Paper? Would panicky people contribute to supply chain sabotage and throw demand-planning forecasts out of kilter by emptying store shelves of this quotidian product?

Yes. Yes. And yes.

So what to do about all these affirmatives that presage a rather unsavory negative? Just imagine a world where people don’t have enough toilet paper to do their business! In my line of work, I help organizations make transitions through times of change. I use a rather simple formula to overcome resistance to transformation:  D x V x F > R.

  • Dissatisfaction: Internalize dissatisfaction with the current change
  • Vision: Envision a desired future state
  • First Steps: Take the necessary first steps
  • Resistance: Recognize that there is resistance to change

If it is true that there is always some level of resistance to change, then R is always greater than zero; and in the simple math formula, R will always win out if D or V or F is zero.

Back to the toilet paper crisis, which is actually a metaphor for the paradox of abundance.  


It is clearly unacceptable that people should fight over toilet paper. Similarly, price gouging must be unacceptable, and yet capitalist individuals corral the supply of hand sanitizers and sell their goods on Amazon at obscene markups. And as we climb the ladder of abstraction, we can all agree that authoritarian systems must not exploit the free market by accepting the largesse of other countries in their own time of need but limit the flow of medical products when their time of distress has passed (yes, this is about China limiting the flow of face masks). With each of us surely only six degrees of separation removed from someone inflicted with COVID-19, Dissatisfaction is greater than zero.


Look around and imagine that we have plenty of resources; we just have to be empathetically resourceful in how we make these resources available to those who need them most. Let’s not become like Joseph Gayetty who watermarked his name on each sheet with which people cleaned what they had shat; let’s be a bit less egocentric and self-centered. The following quote often attributed to M. K. Gandhi, but actually first said by Frank Buchman of Initiatives for Change, can help us all envision a more generous world, thus making our collective Vision greater than zero: “There’s enough in the world for everyone’s need, but not for everyone’s greed.”

First Steps

Here’s a more famous Gandhian quote that the so-called Mahatma might or might not have said:  “We must be the change we wish to see in the world.” That’s a great philosophical first step.  Now on to the practical matter of what we do to hygienically clean up after we defecate in the loo. I suggest this call to action as part of your morning ablutions, thus making your personal First Step greater than zero:  minimize your dependence on toilet paper by cleaning your backside with water. For those whose toilets are so-quipped, loo like the French do and use a bidet.  For those without fancy ceramic fixtures, loo like billions of villagers do and pour the water from a lota. 


When I first returned to India in the mid-1970s, I saw all of the Rajasthanis in my native village carrying lotas with them to the “jungle” at sunrise. At first, I resisted this communal cleansing but eventually, I joined the morning march. Perhaps you, too, will resist the idea of using a lota in the loo. But try a little behavior change on just one morning this week. By giving up the urge to wipe your rump with a lifetime of bright white reams of paper, you might see that we’re all in this crisis together.  Regardless of where you land on the economics of globalization, the coronavirus has proven that Marshall McLuhan was right: we all live in a global village.

Dr. Rajesh C. Oza, is a Change Management Consultant working with clients across the world; he also facilitates the development of MBA students’ interpersonal dynamics at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business.

What Are Bay Area Residents Doing Behind Closed Doors?

Toilet Paper Na Milega Dobara,” writes Sheetal Gokhale as a rehashed title to a Bollywood film. Then quickly types “Doh Toilet Paper Bahrah Hanth”. On a Saturday morning the Saratoga dentist is playing a game of adding toilet paper to names of Bollywood films. Her WhatsApp group is in giggles. Nina Daruwalla, the realtor who has been collecting shoe covers to donate to Santa Clara nurses and staff, joins in, “Gumnam Toilet Paper”.

The entries come in fast and furious: Mein Toilet Paper Tere Angan Ke; Dilwale Toilet Paper Le Jayenge; Kagaz Ke Toilet Paper; Maine Toilet Paper Se Pyaar Kiya; Hum Toilet Paper De Chuke Sanam; Jis Desh Main Toilet Paper Bhathi Hai; Pati Patni Aur Toilet Paper.

Toilet Paper Hunting, Toilet Paper Wars, the gaffes continue. It is like a valve has been released and the overstressed brain has come up for air.

Masks made by Bay Area women. Image courtesy Hema Raja.

The nurses of Santa Clara have requested for some supplies. The ladies used to receiving wishlists from teachers at the start of every school year are now pooling resources to meet this request. Tailoring of masks is starting in earnest. Patterns and sewing instructions are exchanged, sewing machines borrowed and the ladies are off to a running start. All hands on deck. It is when stress creates a yoyo of emotions and whatsapp messages roller coaster through the phones that equanimity is most desired.

Salil Jain, a Cupertino resident unrolls his mat. He has been doing yoga at home with his own private yoga teacher out of India. myYogaTeacher, a Silicon Valley based fitness startup, offers its customers private 1-on-1 yoga sessions online. “For a fixed sum I can do unlimited hours. I plan to do two hour sessions three times a week,” says Salil as he shutters himself in his office. He is signing up for a session by selecting a teacher from their profile and their introduction videos.

Rajiv brews his fourth cup of tea for the day and clicks on the website. In response to the Coronavirus Pandemic, myYogaTeacher has launched live online group classes to help those practicing social distancing. To support our communities and our health these classes are completely free says the CEO Jitendra Gupta.

“For others not so motivated myYogaTeacher not only guides but more importantly will make sure that you are showing up and practicing,” says Rajiv to his wife Ritu. He decides to sign her up. She purrs and pours herself a gin and tonic and heads to the study to join a zoom book club meeting. Reading soothes her nerves.

In homes across the Bay, members of her book club are downloading zoom for the first time. They struggle with getting their audio and videos working and soon their first zoom book club meeting is off to a good start albeit minus two members who couldn’t join in despite their best efforts. As they munch on ideas and thoughts the ladies who usually lunch together discuss Amitav Ghosh’s latest book The Gun Island while sipping their gin and tonics. After all Chloroquine the malaria drug of the colonists is being bandied about as the new cure for Corona.

A Bay Area group comprising of 6 couples has decided to have dinner together via a Facebook meeting on Saturday at 7pm. Everyone will join in virtually for Gupshup and Quaratini or now Chat and Gin-chloroquine.

The Krishna Balram temple has set up a 10 minute chanting call for 6pm ending to end the day on a calm note.

Long walks are becoming part of the new routine. Like students on a silence meditation course the walkers avert their eyes as they pass each other in the park.

Brown yanks at his leash. His routine has not been disrupted by Corona. After finishing his breakfast of poached eggs and dog food he is ready for his walk. With a jaunty step he heads out of the closed door out towards McClellan Park where other dogs are walking their owners. It is business as usual for him. He passes the CEO of myYogaTeacher, a bay area resident and gives him a wag of his tail. No sniffing of the butts in the days of social distancing thinks Brown as he dutifully averts his eyes from his buddy Froddo.

Building mental immunity is as important as building immunity of the body to deal with stress.

Ritu Marwah is washing her hands hourly. She agrees with “Better Saaf than Sorry”. Her husband and dog feel she could do better on the walking and yoga fronts.