Sulabh Museum of Toilets, a one of its kind toilets museum had been on my list of ‘to be visited’ places for a long time. Now that I live in Gurgaon, it was not too far for me but it still took me 4 months to finally go and visit it. I have been a big fan of Dr. Bindeshwar Pathak since the time I first read about him. And in any innovation summit that I attended, I always asked why is he not there. Why is his innovation not featured as a case study? But I guess he is beyond all this, busy doing what he has chosen as his mission in life, relieving mankind of manual scavenging.
Sulabh Museum of Toilets, Delhi
It is located in one corner of Delhi in Dwarka on Palam Dabri road. You can locate it on Google maps, but when you reach there and ask for directions ask for the Sulabh office and not the museum. Most people know this complex as an office and not a museum. Outside the gate, very obviously is a Sulabh Shauchalaya or a public toilet, but to discover what is behind it as you have to enter the office gate. At the reception, one of the curators will welcome you and take you to the museum in the complex.
History of Toilets
As of now, the whole museum is located in one big hall, where you can spend a good 2-3 hours learning about how we reached today’s levels of sanitation. There are some interesting facts drawn from the earliest history of toilets. Tracing back its origins to Indus Valley civilization when there were underground sewage facilities and therefore squatting toilets. The museum takes you through the toilets of ancient, medieval, and modern eras. The oldest ones are depicted in some pictures and fact sheets. There are lots of models from the medieval era and there are actual ones from the modern world.
They have interesting pieces where the height of laziness is depicted through toilets used by rich and famous. There are practices like human mobile toilets which make you wonder if they were really so. There are stories of phrases that came out of disposal practices. A lot of trivia scattered throughout the jam-packed hall. You can have a look at some of the futuristic toilets as well, some are for your adventure trips and some that you can carry along. And some that are biodegradable so you can use and throw.
Outside the hall, there are demo toilets that have been developed. The curator will very meticulously explain to you the operation of each toilet and where and why that is used. For example, there is a small spiral open-air toilet without a door, which gives the user a feeling of being in the open while hidden from all sides. There are toilets for areas where there are no laid sewage pipelines and hence the waste needs to be disposed of, or, decomposed where it originates. When you listen you would wonder why this should not be done everywhere. There are pits that are made using the local material and can support a small family for years together. The cheapest toilet made with old gunny bags supported by Bamboo’s costs less than what we urban people can spend on a single dinner.
Then they have a small laboratory where they are developing and testing new technologies. They are currently working on Duckweed-based wastewater treatment technologies. As you go around and reach the back of the entry gate you see a small treatment plant that treats the human waste from the public toilet in the front. And cleans the water to the extent that it can be used for anything but drinking. Generates gas which is used in the kitchen. And the solid waste left is used as manure, fed back to the plants.
They have created a door out of the human waste that has been kept for a demo outside the museum hall. It is an experimental product that has nothing else as input except human waste and glue. Their tests prove that there are no bacteria in the solid product and it is completely safe for use. They are working on making furniture out of it. Well if you can have products made out of elephant waste, why not human waste.
What I found delightfully amazing in the museum is the fact that all the staff members were not only proud to be working with the organization, but we’re also proud of what they have done and what they are trying to achieve. They were all extremely polite and ready to share their knowledge and talk about it. They were talking as if the owners and treating the visitors like guests. Unlike most professionally managed places where most people are trying just to do their jobs and refuse to look beyond the precise job description.
Each and every member of the organization was a delight to interact with. They were absolutely courteous in their conduct. Very open to listening to ideas and sharing their thought processes. At the cost of being biased, I got a feel of being at an absolutely Indian organization. Which has not yet been spoilt by the processes and mechanizations of the western or the modern world? Hats off to creating and maintaining such a culture right in the middle of the hustle-bustle of a busy metropolis…
For more information on this Sulabh Museum of Toilets and this 20,000 strong organization that has set records in constructing toilets and maintaining them across the world, do visit their website. I can assure you that you will find some amazing information about sanitation. And you would want to get up and do something about it.
I would strongly recommend a visit to the Museum to anyone. After all, toilets are something that we all universally use every day of our lives.
Entry to the Museum of Toilets is free. It is open Monday to Saturday from 10:30 Am to 5:30 PM, except national holidays.
Recommend you to read the following travel blog on Places to visit in Delhi.