You got to go, when you got to go!

The elusive Indian public toilet... It is like the Indian rope trick, people have heard about it, but no one has seen it! So what can a woman do, when she's just got to go?

A gentleman inside a ladies toilet! Pic: Anisha Nair

When was the last time you thought you had died and then managed to resuscitate your being? I experienced this painful process very recently.

Here we were going from one place to another, and typically, the way it normally happens—without warning—my bladder started to constrict. This meant that I had to go and I had to go now! This also meant that I couldn’t go anywhere and everywhere I pleased, the reason being that I’m not an Indian dog, neither am I an Indian man. I can’t simply pull over to the roadside and let go. Neither can I look for the nearest tree/wall/barricade/partition etc to relieve myself.

Children using a park to relieve themselves. Pic: Supriya Khandekar

In India, when certain apparatuses were doled out to humankind, it was with the condition that the male species would get a free hand at using or flashing his at his whim and fancy. The female of the species, on the other hand, would be subject to a song and dance routine before she could see the light at the end of the tunnel! And when I say song and dance, I mean it!

When you are controlling your bladder, you start by breathing deeply, tightly pulling in all your stomach and whatever muscles that surround the organ. Then when you are breathing slowly, you try to take small dainty steps. Larger steps only spell disaster! And you have to be nimble-footed through this process… Whilst you are going about this elaborate breathing, yoga and ballet routine, you are expected to continue to make conversation. And it’s a supreme effort not to lop off a few heads who stop you from reaching your desired destination.

I especially find it exasperating when I have to ask for directions to the damn place. Firstly, it’s not everywhere, so the chances of you finding a clean one are slim. Even if you do hear about a clean one, you’ll realise that the route to get to it, is quite complicated. For instance, in my case, we were out the whole afternoon looking for property; so finding a loo at a construction site was close to impossible. Then we drove around looking for a decent restaurant, and that by itself was a daunting task.

Small hotels have these tiny nooks created in a niche, where there’s this constant worry of getting locked in. And if you do make it in, then the place most certainly stinks to high heavens— this is where your pranayama skills come in handy. If you’ve survived so far, the next problem is water. Either there is no water to clean up, or the faucets will be sprinkling their jets all over you, your clothes and generally announce to the whole wide world that you’ve just relieved yourself. Such places are very common and not really the best option! But like I said, when you got to go, you got to go!

The next option we Bangaloreans have are the malls. They are a dime a dozen to boot, but with a sadistic twist. The loos are located at the farthest end of the mall and you have to wade through this sea of humanity that decides to make every step of yours a painful journey. People will stop suddenly in front of your face, nudge you in the ribs, stop you to ask for directions, and every other conceivable block. Imagine, you’re barely breathing at this moment, your insides are so tight, you’re sure you’ll damage a few muscles somewhere and you’re crisscrossing your legs so much that it’s a miracle you’re not on the floor with your face down, and these dastardly people are making a special effort to acknowledge your presence. Any other day at the mall, there aren’t so many people for one, no one really cares you exist, and the loo is literally a store away!

The advantage in the malls is the cleanliness. Despite all the hardships you faced on the way, at least you are assured of a clean toilet, which quite literally welcomes you with its arms open wide. You are in heaven now! 

The third scenario is that you walk in to the nearest star hotel! Here, you will have to look very business-like. Pretend like you’re meeting the President of the US, and weave your way into the washroom. You can’t just walk in to the washroom here. You have to walk down a couple of corridors, walk past the lawns, their poolside, the pubs, a few artifact shops, window-shop a bit, take in the beautiful garden, smell a few roses and walk ever so slowly to the washroom. All this is to ensure that the staff don’t realise your true purpose of getting in.

If you fail to do this, be prepared to face a lot of hostile looks from the security guys who have probably taken a few of your pictures and flagged them under the ‘Casual Loo User’ category of files. So that the next time you sit down to dine, you’ll be conscious of a few contemptuous looks right from the doorman to the steward! Everyone knows your history and they will not forget that you ‘used’ them – you took their carefully polished washrooms for granted, you committed the sin of not using the hotel’s finest boutiques and restaurants before using its washroom. You will probably have to go back to the hotel a couple of times as penance, and not use the washroom for that one act of perjury.

To save myself this trouble, I rarely look at the star hotels. But yes, I’ve committed these crimes before and I carry the guilt in my heart. And when I meet either Ratan Tata or Captain Nair, I shall confess and cleanse my soul.

Jokes aside, this is the sad plight of all women in our country. At least in bigger cities there is hope, but imagine small towns and villages; it’s terrible! Girls get raped when they venture out to perform the very basic act of relieving themselves. Why does a woman have to be tortured like this? When will we see a country built for its women? And when oh when, will a woman be empowered to just go and do it without having to go about the song and dance?

Related Articles

‘I wish I were a man when it comes to peeing’
BTM Layout, laid without a public toilet

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Similar Story

Smothered by smog: Struggle of vegetable vendors in Delhi’s Keshopur Mandi

Delhi's air pollution affects every resident, but for the urban poor, like vegetable vendors of Keshopur Mandi, it is much worse.

Halfway through our interview, vegetable vendor Rekha asked me point blank, “Isse kya hoga,” and at that moment, I could not think of an answer. She was right and had every reason to be hopeless. Much has been written about air pollution and much energy has been spent on expert committees and political debates and yet nothing has changed.  “Hum toh garib log hai, hum kisko jakar bole, hamari sunvai nahin hoti” (We are poor people, to whom do we go, nobody listens to us),” says Rekha Devi, who sells vegetables in the Keshopur Mandi. Keshopur is a large retail…

Similar Story

Study shows TNPCB ill-equipped to monitor the environmental impact of pollution

The scientific team of TNPCB is working at half its strength, affecting the Board's ability to carry out inspections in Chennai and other parts of the State.

The Central Pollution Control Board and the State Pollution Control Boards are the primary custodians for preventing and controlling all forms of pollution in our country. Despite their significant role in environmental protection, the public is mostly unaware of the functions of these regulatory bodies, due to insufficient research. Therefore, we at Citizen consumer & civic Action Group (CAG) have attempted to understand the functions of the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB), through a study titled ‘The Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board in Retrospect: An Examination of Selected Parameters from 2017 to 2022.’ Read more: Fisherfolk lament as environmental…