Home decorating

The wet room

5:30 PM

In India you are more likely to hear someone say that they are going to take a bath, rather than having a bath. You should also know that in India taking a bath do not involve a bath tub at all, and in most case not even the shower head, taking a bath is the action of washing oneself.
In most places a "bath" involve a bucket of water (warmed water if you have a heater) and a plastic mug, you squat on the ground or use a special plastic stool to sit on, and pour water on yourself as you wash.
And in general the bathroom is the most naked basic room in any house. Interestingly in each of the flats I've lived in across India the bathrooms were far bigger than the tiny 3 square meter one I had in my studio apartment in Geneva, but they are 10 times less practical. While my Geneva bathroom had a fairly large elevated shower tub that I could close with curtains, a wash bassin, and a sit down toilet as basic fixtures with me adding a nice bathroom rug, cane laundry hamper and drawer unit as well as a bigger laminate storage unit, in India you have to content yourself of what is there and not add much else.
In some of my Indian bathroom the wash bassin was even outside, leaving a big 4 square meter room with just a shower head and a toilet, in half the cases it was a squat down toilet (Indian Style). You could try to put a few storage units, but if they aren't hard plastic and carry anything that isn't water proof you are in for a surprise. Shower tubs aren't common here and let's not start talking about bath tubs they are a rarity. An Indian bathroom has no separate wet and dry area. You take a bath and the whole room become slippery and humidity lingers for hours in there. In those having a squat down toilet I even lost quite a few soap cakes in my natural morning induced klutziness, down the drain they went in just one quick slip. Indian bathrooms don't have much in matter of shelves either, in most places I would leave them on the window sill, and was actually happy if there was would it be just a built in soap holder.
My current apartment is actually the one with the most well planned bathrooms I had so far, and there is still a lot that could be improved.
We are lucky enough to have two bathroom one with a sit down toilet and a shower, this one is rather tiny and we never use the shower in it, we stored the laundry hamper there. The other is bigger, has a bassin, squat down toilet on a small platform, a thin tiled divider between the toilet and the area where the shower head does the most wetting, the shower area is directly facing the entry door and is big enough for 2-3 persons to stand there, and we have a built in soap dish. For years the toilet in this bathroom was useless and a fall trap for a high number of soaps, face wash bottles and even my razor. We never used that toilet preferring the western style one in the other bathroom. When we upgraded or monster rather inefficient top load washing machine for a front load one in 2008 we decided to set it up on the squat down toilet and felt like our bathroom had become that much more practical, before that each time we wanted to do laundry we had to wheel the machine from it's storage place in the kitchen to the bathroom were we cold connect it to a tap and drain it without problem. How practical that was? I ask you.
In the time we had the new washing machine the top of that later became a storage space for various shampoo bottles, laundry detergent box and later Ishita's baby tub (who has been now recycled as a washed laundry carrier).
We still have the towels scattered around the house, half the cosmetic in another room, and we are seriously practicing our stunt skills everytime this room is wet risking a few broken limbs on a daily basis and making sure that the rest of the flat will never stay clean as once or dust feet stepped into the wet and back on the dry surface in the rest of the flat we leave a few brownish foot prints that the maid will have to mop away the next day. I would buy one of those little rubber wipe brooms if jasmine would not destroy these thinking they are toys as she sleeps in the bathroom enjoying the cool wetness of it in the Summer.

Yes over the year I always thought those Indian naked bathroom were a big waste of space, I could store so much things that are cramming my wardrobes in the other rooms in there, if only the basic concept of separate dry and wet area existed.
In all these years there is only ONE advantage I found about them and I discovered that only recently. The fact that they are open space combined with Ishita having outgrown the baby bath mean I have to take my shower with her, and it is easy to leave her on the ground playing with a few toy while I wash myself using the shower head (I use the bucket system only if I have no other option), I can keep an eye on her, and then once I'm done with my wash all I have to do is squat down and wash her and we are done. Other than that I'm yet to find another advantage of not having a wet area shielded by a curtain really.


  1. jkpickle@google.com6:52 AM

    Confession: I have been lurking on your blog for a year, attracted by the masthead (I was starting my own blog) and the topic. I lived in Kerala for almost a year so I am enjoying your discoveries of Indian life. This one really hit home. I remember those baths well and used the technique after returning while I lived in a tent all one summer and bathed outside with sheets hung in trees for privacy, a bucket and cup. How Indian! Thanks. I like your blog.

  2. Thanks for de-lurking and posting a comment :-)

    The bucket thing always made me think of camping trips, and if I have the option to use a shower head I'll do it, especially during the cold months, not that it gets really cold in bangalore but I like having a continuous stream of hot water flowing.
    And last July after giving birth I was so happy that my home had a shower head indeed.

  3. Anonymous12:44 PM

    I'm still amazed how your 3 square metre bathroom back home included a water closet, wash basin and a bath tub. Sigh..if only Indian bathrooms were even 50% practical as the western ones it will save a lot if misery for people like me who likes relocating but do not want to.

    1. It was an elevated shower tub :-) not a bathtub. Shower tubs have raised edges but are square in shape and you stand in them, under the shower. It keeps the water from said shower to splash in the entire bathroom.

      But yeah most bathrooms in Europe are tiny, but far more functional than Indian ones. Those 3 square meters had as I said a shower tub, a basin, and a commode, but I also had a laundry hamper, a cabinet above the commode to store all my bathrooms essential and a small drawer unit under the basin for more bathrooms essential. This freed a giant amount of storage in my wardrobe which was then just for clothes, because all my soaps, lotions, tissues, hair styling stuff, and towels were all neatly stored in the room they actually belonged to.


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