Top Navigation

A Short Story about Pooping My Pants

Hi. My name is Erin, and I pooped my pants.

I was twenty one years old. I was in control of my own movements and self. I had an accessible toilet.

And yet, despite all logic that would explain otherwise, I pooped my pants.

It was a sunny and clear morning in the Indian Himalayan foothills. I woke up promptly at six am to my host mother knocking on the window, bringing us morning tea. Binaji’s tea was the best part of the day. Sweet, gingery flavor enticed me out of the bed I shared with two other American girls. I opened the shuttered window, thanked Binaji for the tea, and began to get ready to start the day.

Binaji, our host mother, was the granpanchayat, or mayor, of the village Reetha. Posted high in the Himalayan foothills, Reetha is home to mainly agricultural families. Peaches, pears, apples, cucumbers, plums, and cabbages thrive on the tiered mountain sides. That time of year, late July, the peaches were perfectly ripe. Binaji’s peach orchard exploded with sweet temptation. We came home each afternoon and she indulged in them with us, attempting to teach us Hindi and laughing at our inability to pronounce the number eight. I had so many questions I wanted to ask her: what is it like to be in a village leadership role, especially as a woman? How long has your family lived in this house? May I pet the dog? But I couldn’t. She spoke no English, and I spoke no Hindi. So we ate peaches and tried to come up with innovative hand gestures to describe our hopes, struggles, and the world around us.

The house was white with blue shutters. Built of clay, the floors, ceilings, and walls sloped away from each other. The first time I walked inside was for dinner. It was dark, and the only light in the front room came from a shrine Binaji and her husband used for worship. A statue of Ganesha looked protectively over the room, ready to receive and ease all worries. Binaji was in the kitchen. She motioned for us to move closer. I had to stoop my head to avoid bumping it on the clay ceilings above me.

The kitchen was unlike any room I have ever been in before, and likely any room I ever will be inside again. It was dimly lit – the only real light source a small fire and an electric lantern in the middle of the room. In the far corner sat a small electric stove and a set of pots and pans. A large cabinet stood next to it, so large it seemed like the room had been built around it – there was no way it could have fit through the stunted doors. The shelves overflowed with containers of spices and vegetables and flour. Although none of the containers had words on them, Binaji always knew just which one held what. In the corner closest to the door there was a small wood fireplace, and squatting down next to it was Binaji. Years of smoke from the fireplace blackened the wall around her and the ceiling above. When she moved, I saw a distinct outline of her shape forever immortalized in the wall behind her. She poked sticks into the fire to start a large enough flame, then rolled chapati and placed it on a small metal plate above the fire. With a hollowed out stick she blew on the flame to just the right height, and then grabbed the hot chapati with bare fingers and handed it directly to one of us. It never failed to burn my sensitive hands. “No fire,” she said one evening, “bad chapati.”

Our room was in a side house, attached to the barn, separate from the main living quarters. It was square, with a large bed in one corner. The walls at one point were blue, but were now faded to a slightly-teal white. A flock of swallows had evidently occupied the room before we did. There were three mud nests inside the room, and the wall and floor beneath each was littered with stains of their excrement. As the three of us piled into the bed each night we could hear the cows sleeping soundly through our shared wall.

When I woke up on that fateful morning, I was feeling a little off-kilter. I was halfway through my time in India, and I was starting to reflect on the experiences I’d already had, and what value I found in them. I was also starting to miss the comforts of home. As rewarding as it had been to challenge myself, I was getting a little tired with eating only potatoes and chapati.

Apparently, so was my digestion system. I got out of bed, stretched, and thought: “I should probably go to the bathroom.” I got some toilet paper together, changed out of my pajamas and thought, “Oh goodness. I should really go to the bathroom.” Quickly, I made my way out of the room and down to the outhouse.

The bathroom was in a small tin shed down the hill and around the corner. The shed was short – my head could touch the ceiling – and made of cement. The door to the bathroom was a piece of tin, with holes in it just large enough to make you pretty sure others could see inside, and held closed by a short length of string clasped to a rusty nail in the wall. The toilet itself was a ceramic hole in the ground, that required a person squat to use it.

As I ran down the hill, I knew I was in trouble. One of the girls I was living with had already left the room to use the bathroom, and there was going to be a line. I swatted past dancing butterflies and hopping frogs to the bathroom stall and banged on the door.

“Jen! Let me in!” I yelled.

“I just got in here!” she replied.


She could sense the desperation in my tone, and quickly finished her turn.

I ran into the stall, squatted as fast as humanly possible, and ripped down my pants. But it was too late. The poop had already started, and it was not stopping anytime soon.

There I squatted, uncontrollable bowel functions on one end and a large spider inching closer and closer on the other, and I wondered at what point this had become my life. At what point did it become me who was off having adventures and diarrhea, and not someone else? Really, anybody else?

I went to India because I felt like it was something I wouldn’t force myself to do otherwise. The program was perfect. Two months long, a relatively tourist-free area, a homestay component – I knew I would never be able to experience something like that if I tried to plan it myself. I probably knew, deep down somewhere, that I would never go someplace that challenged my way of living if I tried to plan it myself. But this wasn’t by myself, and this wasn’t my responsibility to plan. “Two months,” I thought to myself. “I can make it through two months of India, even if I hate it.”

At that moment I wasn’t so sure. I knew I had a lot more meals of potatoes and chapati coming my way, and I didn’t want to experience another episode of emergency poop. In fact, I didn’t even know how to solve the one at hand. My pants were a mess, not cleanable with the meager amount of toilet paper I grabbed in anticipation. I needed to walk back up the hill to my room and to the potential of cleaner clothes. My dad once told me, “sometimes to move forwards, you have to go backwards.” I had to go backwards. I had no choice. I pulled my poopy pants back up, and stepped out of the stall.

The air felt different. Worse. Or maybe that was just my smell. I trudged up the hill and got to the room. “Out.” I told my roommates. “I need the room.”

Luckily, I had a stash of wet wipes and was able to get cleaned up pretty well. Unluckily, I had no access to garbage disposal. There is no real garbage infrastructure in that area of rural India, and there was no way I was going to leave that particular garbage for my host family to dispose of themselves. That meant I got to pack everything in my backpack. All of the toilet paper and wipes, and yes, even the poopy pants, made it into my bag. That morning we were leaving our homestay for the weekend to stay in a nearby resort. As I re-packed my bag, I came to the slow realization that now I would need to carry all of my belongings, which now smelled highly questionable, the four miles to the resort.

It was a long trek. The flies, always present, were positively incessant. I walked with a sad, slow pace. I felt sorry for myself. Here I was, in rural India, with no real access to a washing machine or shower, with a poopy pants problem. A poopy pants problem in the United States would be fine. I could buy new pants, and no one would ever know if I threw the old ones away. But in a small village in India, I couldn’t buy new pants. In a small village in India, someone would need to destroy my pants personally (and would know who they belonged to).

Smelly, sweaty, and sad I arrived at the resort. I went to my cabin and faced the hard facts: I pooped my pants. Someone has to clean up my poopy pants. That someone is me. I have to clean up my poopy pants. We had one bucket in the cabin, and we used it for both laundry and showers. I turned the water on as hot as I could and washed the pants. I rinsed them out and washed them again, and again, and again. Then I washed out the bucket and took a shower of my own.

After showering I smelled a little cleaner, and I began to put things in perspective. If I went to India and the worst thing that happened was a little digestional dysfunction, that’s pretty great. If I went to India and the worst thing that happened was digestional dysfunction a few more times, that’s still pretty great. Pooping your pants is not the worst thing in the world.

An hour or two later, my roommate came back to our cabin. She immediately started complaining about the amount of homework she had to complete that weekend and how there would be no time to do it.

I looked her dead in the eye, smiled, and said, “Hey. You know what? This morning I literally pooped my pants.”

“Yeah,” she said. “Your life is worse.”

Grievances aired, we moved on with our day.

, ,

Comments are closed.