Relatives had come visiting, and we were chatting before lunch. The topic somehow drifted to the practice of open defecation that is prevalent in many parts of the country, and we were wondering why it is not seen in Kerala. An elderly relative (who must be 75 years old or so) supplied the explanation. As Louise Ouwerkerk has observed (see The Malayalee Mindset:A Geographical Explanation), every house in Kerala used to be surrounded by a patch of land on which were grown fruit trees, vegetables, etc. It seems a pit was dug somewhere on this land that served as a toilet (also see Kaloor’s Smelly Secret and the comments in that post).
This relative embellished his explanation with a little detail that made the pit experience come alive in the drawing room where we were sitting: he said sometimes in his boyhood, when he was squatting over the pit after dark, with only a lamp for illumination, he could see a pair of bright pinpoint sources of light vertically below him in the pit. At first he was puzzled — and afraid. Then the realization hit him: it was the light reflected from the eyes of an intelligent pig that preferred to have its food delivered hot and fresh from the source.
Today, of course, almost every house in Kerala has a toilet and septic tank, though there must be places in the interior where this pit system is still practiced. I have no authoritative source to back me up on this. At any rate, open defecation is not — and as far as I can tell, has never been — practiced in Kerala
This was, of course, not the best kind of conversation to have before lunch, but we didn’t allow it to affect our appetites. The human mind is infinitely malleable. 🙂