Everyone has a toilet story. Actually some of us have many toilet stories. Yes, that time when you drove into the porch. Parked the car in the lot. Walked hundred metres, went through a few minutes of xray for your bag and then entered the cool lobby of a five star hotel. Only you weren’t there for a meeting. You were dying to go to the loo. You also secretly hoped no one noticed this short and focussed journey in and out. Well, this is in the cities.

you would hold up the door with one hand, fearing the fragile and loose bolt to fall off by the vibrating train

Then the train journey. Those chained steel dubba mugs, with clumped up toilet paper and runny soap and super stench of the ventilated pot, has always made for a situation you just want to avoid. And so you wouldn’t drink water, because you didn’t want to have to go. In the event you went, you would hold up the door with one hand, fearing the fragile and loose bolt to fall off by the vibrating train. You don’t want to imagine loos in general compartments or second class.

Everyone has a toilet story. Actually some of us have many of them. Yes, that time when you drove into the porch.

My toilet stories may make several books full of humour. Unfortunately, lack of bathrooms isn’t funny at all. Every one of us has had sinking and stalking moments on our way to the loo.

Travelling by road is a nightmare in India, especially for women.Author Kiran Manral says she would be on one of the many cross country drives and not drink any liquids at all through the day. “Not until we stopped for the night because there would never be hygienic restrooms available on the highways. Now of course the main highways do have QSR stops with restrooms but we still need periodically placed public toilets exclusively for women.”

My toilet stories may make several books full of humour. Unfortunately, lack of bathrooms isn’t funny at all. Every one of us has had sinking moments on our way to the loo.

Millions of women in India contract disease in dirty loos. Poorvi Gupta, correspondent with SheThePeople has a painful tale to tell. She had contracted UTI and was desperate to go. “I had gone for a day-long trip with my friends to Mahabalipuram from Chennai. And in the midst of the day I got a urinary tract infection. When we were coming back in the bus (its a one hour or so long journey) I had this massive desire to pee and there was a long traffic jam. The bus was stuck. So I decided to ask the conductor to let me get down and I thought I wouldn’t miss the bus even if I go take a piss and come back. And to my utter despair, even when I got down from the bus, I asked several shopkeepers if they have a bathroom and every single one of them declined, completely ignoring my sorry state. I had to catch the bus, stay put in my position, reach hostel and then use the loo. I was in pain.”

What are your toilet stories? Share it in the comments

The hygiene factor is one, but quite another is the fear of safety. Dhabas with a small loo, under an asbestos sheet, often without flushes and in the far corner of the plot. Most of the time you are scared to go because god knows who is following you. In most part of India, in rural areas 61% of the population defecate in the open. They go out in the open in open fields, railway tracks, garbage dumps, parks and roadside ditches. To an extent, this is also true of urban India. This puts women at a great risk, for they have to go in fields that are dotted with many men. In the cases the village has a bathroom, they are often so far that women are troubled, teased and even raped on their way to the loos. Some go in groups, some times they just hold back and let their bladder hurt.

Woman at loo outside her home by Wash For India
They go out in the open in open fields, railway tracks, garbage dumps, parks and roadside ditches.

When I was a cub reporter with CNBC, back in 2003 one of my early works was about the Delhi’s public loos. It was akin to doing a sting operation. There was one in Shankar market. I had walked in with a camera, shocking many of the people inside. I was a woman in a woman’s loo with nearly four men inside. They were dying clothes. The orders for ladies suits in the nearly by gated market for fancy salwars. Those men could have collectively thrown me out of the bathroom just to keep business in the play. Another part of my story took me to the bathroom on Girgaum chowpatty in Mumbai. I stepped in. Actually I hardly could. The floor was strewn with cauliflowers. Though these were ladies. My blasting fell on deaf years. Tragically this is pretty rampant even now. Pick a loo and surprise it.

Toilet stories while travelling? Remember those chained steel dubba mugs, with clumped up toilet paper and runny soap and super stench of the ventilated pot, has always made for a situation you just want to avoid

When Delhi actually got a good loo, it made headlines. A spanking new one, complete with red bright bricks, odonil and clean floors had opened in the corner of Khan Market in Delhi. You could pay and use it. I think for a while we found all routes to our events via Khan market just to be sure we had an option to relieve ourselves. The owner, fair, tall with golden hair used to drive in a Mercedes. He had a fixed parking spot in the otherwise bumper to bumper plush shopping arcade. Where else could it be? Bang opposite the loo. But I was more interested in how this loo came about not his car. NDMC, the New Delhi Municipal Corporation had found a business model. Loos would be made on lucrative corners and their outside walls would be let out for advertising. It was sure shot and it worked. Even now, some of these loos are far more bearable than the original shauchalaya or ladies.

Though Swacchta mission has brought about awareness, I think nothing compares with a country as large as ours having millions of more loos.

I am yet waiting for a day when politicians wouldn’t consider making toilets a gift, like this one. We can’t find a tech solution to creating the loo infrastructure. And let’s certainly not just depend on preventives, supportives like peebuddy, peesafe and other stuff as a substitute to making real bathrooms that can be maintained and used. With the head held high and without fear.

What are your toilet stories?

 

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