Rushing to attend nature's call and inside the toilet, you have to hold your breath. This was a reflex action of the body till a few years ago, inside the filthy toilets in China's cities.
Now, granite floors, remote-sensor flushing, automatic hand-driers and piped music are the norm. Beijing launched a three-year campaign - with a 400-million Yuan ($57 million) investment - to modernize its public toilets in 2005 to get ready for the 2008 Olympics. With 1,000 new public toilets being built and renovated each year, the fetid back-street privies are being replaced with clean, well-maintained flush toilets.
Beijing is now flushed with pride that all the 5,333 public toilets, with standardized white male and female figure signs are available within a five-minute walk of any downtown location, according to a Xinhua report. There will be 1,500 toilets in the Olympic venues and around it by the time Beijing Games start. Toilets in restaurants, bars and shopping malls are required by the government to be maintained properly, not only for the sake of their business, but also to show a more civilized Beijing. A survey by Beijing's Municipal Bureau of Tourism in 1994 showed more than 60 percent of overseas travelers were dissatisfied with Beijing's toilets, and most described going to the smelly and dirty toilets as a revolting experience.
However, there is a culture clash over which kind of toilet is better. Westerners are used to seated toilets, which are more comfortable and convenient for the elderly or the infirm. The squat, or keyhole, toilets widely used in Chinese public toilets are considered more hygienic as there is no body contact, given the condition of some public toilet seats.
The Chinese government a few decades ago had distributed pamphlets to promote a civilized behavior, on topics such as toilet use, no-spitting and jumping queues. Inside public toilets, reminders of proper use of toilets are posted on the walls. A lesson in toilet education, much needed by the Indians!