the entrance (was green, repainted)

Outhouse

Bobby George
4 min readMay 28, 2020

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Our house in our Calcutta home that I was born in, is pretty much the same after 70 odd years. The main door opens into a passage, through green double doors that could be opened from the outside, through the grills on top with a flip of the wooden block swinging on a single nail. The additional security feature is the heavy wooden centre piece that is slide into the rectangular opening on another piece of wood. As you swing open the doors, you would be greeted by the yelps of the two dogs that occupied the times I was there, Jimmy and Blacky.

Three long strides and you are at the end of the passage where a wooden chest is placed. Unlike other wooden chest it is not a perfect cuboid but is tapered towards the bottom and is stained black like the rest of the furniture in one room. This has a wicker design in plastic on the face and has been there forever. The three steps leading down to a long passage is what divides the main building to the outhouses. Well, outhouses is a fancy name, it is more like a long shed with asbestos roofing which makes up the kitchen and the bathroom. One usually avoided the last step and reached stepped directly on the single step in front of the kitchen.

This kitchen also had a door which had a three link chain hanging from the top. This was the security system. The chain would be hooked on to a u-shaped link on the wooden frame and locked every night. At the far end of the passage were an open room to the right and a wooden door to the left leading to a passage which in turn led to the street. Our emergency exit. This door had a hinged cross bar and the space between the panels enabled us to sneak into the house after-hours. One could stick a finger in the gap, lift up the cross bar and open the door slightly as the other hand slid in the opening and grabbed the bar before it dropped to its side with a bang.

In all my years there, the rains would fill up the streets with overflowing waters of the Hoogly river and sometimes the waters would enter the passage and come up to the threshold of the kitchen, but would not enter the kitchen floor even during the horrendous floods of September 1978. This is very vivid as it was a few days after my 16th birthday.

The open room was called the “Karimuri” (meaning the room of charcoal). From my childhood memories there was little or no charcoal. One bag was there for a long time, then it fades from memory. This was where the broken items, vessels, glass bottles, newspapers were stacked till the time the recyclers visited and sold for some addition to the house finances. The other piece of equipment was a grinding stone sitting stoically in a corner, weighted down by the worries of a cylindrical obelisk in its open mouth.

To the right of the kitchen was the bathroom with a tin roof, which housed my cats. Starting with one, it grew in size. The lone cat made friends with my dog Jimmy, and it was a sight to see them sitting side by side, on the street to the bemusement of passers-by. The bathroom in itself was half occupied by the tank and the ledge around it was a convenient place to keep the detergent soap (501) and later with Rin. The towel rack was a nail or the clothes line outside. Sometime I would forget to take the towel in, so if someone is not in earshot to hand me over, a quick peek and a hand and part of a naked body would lean out to grab the flimsy white South Indian cotton with a coloured stripe and unwoven edges from the line.

The door to the lavatory was accessed with a step that was once a grinding stone. The lock was an eye and hook latch, but the door would not close properly due to expansion of the wood. The only way one could close was to align the two panels together and push it in place moving the frames deeper into the brick and lime walls. The Indian loo was the standard and the small ledge inside was the location of a small metal bucket. This bucket needed to be filled before every visit. There were two brackets at a height from the floor which housed a metal flushing unit before our times. This was operated by a chain and pulley unit which would make a loud clang as you let go. But lack of water pressure soon put it to disuse, then rust took over and it was discarded. I haven’t seen this in my house but have seen it in operation in other houses for this description.

This is the house that someone built and I grew up in.

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Bobby George

Academician, Author, Foodie, Traveller with myriad interests and skills, all jacked and none mastered!