- Sriram Ananth (firstname.lastname@example.org)
- Blog: https://loveliberationstruggle.wordpress.com/
The last article I wrote on suicide gutted me a bit, so I’m going to be talking about bowel movements for this one, while invoking the late wisdom of a strange, grumpy old man.
I don’t know why really. I think it’s because writing this article made me laugh while invoking a giant middle finger to pain and trauma. Read on if you’d like. It’s a short piece anyway.
When I was about eight or nine years old, my late grandfather on my mother’s side drew a diagram for me and my older brother, a diagram I will describe shortly. First let me briefly describe this man as I remember him.
Thatha died when I was about ten or eleven after his heart gave out, so I do remember him being my first experience with death, and crying when I saw his body, not because I particularly gave a crap that he was gone but merely because I had never seen a dead body in real life. He was a very harsh, abusive disciplinarian to his children, and felt that the most strict and economically productive societies like Japan were the epitome of humanity. He wished to be born in a country like Japan for his next life, so he could work hard and spend his life in strict discipline (no kidding) without having to deal with the chaos and corruption of a messy place like Bangalore.
Weird little fucker he was.
I wasn’t particularly close to the man, nor did I like him very much. From a very young age, I’ve never particularly enjoyed the company of men who thought of themselves as stern family patriarchs or portrayed that kind of behavior, especially in strict or angry ways. They’re often a stressful pain to be around, and it’s only when they change their ways and become gentler, more loving men can I bond with them. Unfortunately with Thatha, he kicked the bucket before that could happen. So I only remember him as a bit of a dick, not a particularly cruel or evil one, just a strict jerk with a quick temper.
However, he did have a deliciously wicked sense of humor and he taught me one, just one, invaluable thing before he died; a life lesson I have never forgotten and one that I am realizing has been a key feature to whatever health and fitness I might possess or have the potential to possess:
Daily, healthy bowel movements.
I kid you not.
And he did all this via a diagram and a very brief lecture.
The diagram he drew and the lecture that preceded was in response to my elder brother not taking a shit this one special morning. I feel compelled to emphasize this god-honest truth – one weekend morning my brother happened to not feel like taking a shit as soon as he woke up, and because he happened to wile away a lazy hour or two of his (weekend) morning without hitting the throne right away, it merited a lecture from my grandfather. The morning had not ended mind you, so there was every chance that my brother would have indeed taken a shit that day before the sun hit the tall sky, even without the lecture that was to follow.
But Thatha believed a household needed to be run like a Toyota factory striving for a level of efficiency that would make the founder emit a gratifying, albeit adequately humble, sigh from the grave.
You see – if you haven’t been able to gather this already from my glib and absolutely unabashed usage of the word “shit” and my regular veering off in the direction of bowel movements (see previous titles on this blog for further, surreptitiously self-aggrandizing, reference) – I come from a family that takes a strange pride in having excellent digestive systems.
I did just say that.
I’m going to repeat it for good effect.
I come from a family that takes a strange pride in having excellent digestive systems – and I’m going to keep talking about it, thank you very much, dignity and family pride very much intact.
I grew up in a great family in Bangalore, barring a couple of jerks, which is par for the course with humanity I think and not something to really complain about. No jokes, great family, especially my parents and joint family kin in Bangalore (and now Toronto as well). Very lucky block I am indeed.
Now, I’m not suggesting for a second that they were awesome because they all had great digestive systems – aided by a fibre heavy diet of course. I am however saying that a good shit first thing in the morning can give you that oh so perky start to the day – something I realize all members of my family get. So, at the very least, their good digestive systems make them, uh, less shitty.
(Sorry for that bad pun right there btw. While digestion was one our strong suits, risque humor was not. We were, for all our public talk of bowel movements, an astoundingly prudish lot. Quite bovine in nature actually. Thatha even had the whole cud chewing thing going.)
Ok, back to our story.
Now, in order to lecture my brother (and me too apparently because I was putzing around the garden looking at earthworms), Thatha semi-cogently sputtered about the value of good digestion – occasionally taking a delightfully appetizing break to gurgle and spit brown tobacco juice with jet-stream like precision onto the plants of our grandparent’s front yard, a stray droplet or two landing ever so lovingly on our cringing faces.
To emphasize his point, he drew the following diagram:
First, in profile, he drew the outline of a human being. Or at least a globular, vaguely human form.
Within that outline of a human being he drew an outline of the digestive system from mouth to asshole, with a stomach in between.
Then, within the outline of that digestive system, in the little protrusion representing the stomach, he drew a turd.
As he amused himself to the increasing disgust of his only daughter’s children, he then proceeded to provide his idea of a succinct, medically sound, rationally grounded lecture on daily healthy living. It took all of ten seconds before my brother walked away gagging.
The shiny pearls of wisdom he so graciously provided us can best be paraphrased thus:
Then our body converts what we eat to shit.
We need to remove that shit every morning.
Because if we don’t, for the rest of the day, whenever we open our mouths our breath is going to smell like shit…
the same shit that is still in our stomach because we failed to remove it that morning…
because shitting in the morning is something that all good, disciplined human beings (ahem, such as your grandfather) do.
So go take a shit right now.
He then, as my brother started to gag, proceeded to literally draw the smells of the turd travelling through the digestive system, emanating out of the mouth. By the time he was finished with this final illustrative flourish, there was just the two of us (me a tad surprised that I was still kinda peckish for the scrambled eggs my mum was making for me that morning).
Now, I leave it to you to judge the value of such organic inter-generational advice. I know for sure that I’m likely to adopt a slightly different approach to telling any young ‘uns about the importance of good digestion.
But believe you me – ever since that lecture, over a quarter century ago, I have never gone a day in my life without at least one healthy bowel movement.
You may cringe. You know, tmi or whatever…
But nothing perks you up like a good dump.
And that’s the real value of that lesson. It actually converts the lesson into a truism I admittedly had to glean for myself after talking to people a tad more even-minded than my grandfather (rest his tobacco-chewing, very regular, soul).
But I think what Thatha tried to tell us in his crude and amusingly memorable way was this:
The seemingly inconsequential (and often more unpalatable) daily activities of life constitute the bedrock of health and healing – and we ignore them at our own peril.
Thatha, you grouchy fuck – take a bow in that old Toyota factory in your paradise that you are a loyal comprador, middle-manager of – because whenever I take a dump, I think of you and I’m strangely grateful you drew me that nasty diagram.
(Now, that’s a weird family to get your genes from.)