Internet comedy superstar Michael Kelly recently wrote to me with a stupendous discovery. His sailor uncle has a friend who was a steward on the Royal Yacht Britannia. This man owns a poo poo’d by the Queen of England. Don’t pooh-pooh my discovery. Can you imagine: Queen Elizabeth’s poo? The royal fundamental issue.
Napoleon’s tiny member and Rasputin’s giant anaconda are both preserved and extant in this world. It’s not that surprising. Flesh is flesh and when you become the terror of Europe like Napoleon was, or an all-round badass like Rasputin, it’s natural that history will enshrine your essence (in Rasputin’s case) or your most embarrassing quality (Napoleon). But a poo! A poo is delicate. A poo is transient. How do you store it? If you keep it in water, it’ll dissolve. It’ll become a pool and not a poo. If you keep it out of water, it’ll dry up and turn into dust in the wind. All it will be is dust in the wind.
But what if you are a coprophile, a poo connoisseur, if you collect such varnished gems to preserve for eternity? The spiraling complexity of Freud’s digestive system, Nietzsche’s superpoo, James Joyce’s treasured mounds, Bukowski’s beery bowl of slugs; the double-helixes of Watson and Crick, John Lennon’s bespectacled brown offspring. Wouldn’t Queen Elizabeth’s poo, the poo of the queen on whose empire even the sun dared not set, be your crowning glory? Winston Churchill (God bless him and his alcohol-fuelled fiery blasts) might be the greatest Briton perhaps, but the Queen is most sacred.
Poo is like fingerprinting or biometric identification systems. We have by now established that everything in the world is uniquely identifiable, thanks to DNA. Voice, fingerprint, iris, hair. It follows then that each poo is also unique to its creator. But the good thing about it is that while a poo is subject to the same deoxyribonucleic laws that regulate our acid, you don’t need to be a genetic engineer to work with it. A poo offers multiple layers of security, given here in rising hierarchical order: shape, pretzeling, bouquet, texture, content (cross-sectional, lateral and hair), and then the actual scientific markers such as acidity, PH levels, blood group.
By now, you’re probably like, ‘Jeez, Kazi Khaled Arafat, you sure can talk about poo!’ and maybe you’re wondering what’s the point of this column. Fear not, fair reader, you are not alone. This is a refrain that I’ve heard before. From poets, preachers, petty thieves, prophets, panhandlers, peddlers, prizefighters, Paul Simon: whoever is unfortunate enough to come into my conversational sphere. There are molly-coddles, hoity-toits, nobles and queens who would rather knit a sweater for an enemy than talk poo.
Take Jarett Kobek. My poo talk often leaves him sputtering, wretched and screaming something like, ‘Shut up, Bengali, I’m sick of your poo talk! Leave a Turkish man alone!’ But in his ignorance, Mr. Kobek indirectly hits upon the salient matter: I am a Bengali, a proud brown man of Bangladesh. For the Bangladeshi, poo is a matter of the utmost seriousness, a hygiene and social issue at the forefront of our collective consciousness. I say this with utter sincerity: for a white person living in the First World, chillin’ decadent style in the demented Occident, the ever-presence and inescapable menace of human waste cannot be explained. For us, it is not simply an off-color joke, but a constant threat and a killer. If you’re Bengali, your life involves poo.
I’m from the upper classes; I don’t boy toy with the hoi polloi, and still, still, still an open sewer runs by my father’s home. An open sewer runs by the residences of every person I know, and I only know Dhaka City’s finest. I’m not the only person to notice the problem – recently, British journalist Rose George published the masterful masterpiece ‘The Big Necessity: The Unmentionable World of Human Waste and Why It Matters.’ The book is a much-required corrective to Western bashfulness on the subject of a human function that we all perform, and it provides sobering statistics about poo hygiene in the Third World, with a very special focus on dear ol’ Bangladesh, the apple of Tagore’s eye. Apparently the apple has rotted, as George estimates that Bengalis consume roughly 10 grams of poo a day. As in eating. Think about that, Westerners. That’s how bad things are in Bangladesh. That’s the kind of culture I come from. A poo culture. Ten grams, kids.
Therein lies the dichotomous nature of my existence: on the one hand, I tweet poo jokes on my iPhone. On the other, my best friends ingest 10 grams of poo daily. The Occident, and the Orient, and shall the twain ever overlap? Only by a third, bunky. Only by a third.