It was 2PM in the afternoon and my bladder was about to burst. Initially, it was awkward to go and ask the driver to stop. We have always been taught to practice restraint when it comes to speaking about pee, poop, period, sex and rape; and even when it isn’t taught, there’s always some level of awkwardness that stays. So I practiced restraint and the fact that it was an AC bus was aggravating the situation. When it got uncontrollable, I walked up to him and stood there until he stops. It seemed like a relief but not for too long. Two-three women followed me and we entered with our noses covered only to discover a small cubicle, open to the sky with three open pee urinals and one doorless Indian latrine, full of shit and two blood stained pads. There was a bucket but there was no water. I had to do my thing.
This is a pee story and it doesn’t matter what place am I talking about. No city or state in our country can take pride for their toilets. Barring few political slogans, sanitation has never been a part of our idea of development. For a long time, I used to feel that ‘pay and use toilets’ are ultimate solutions for cleaner toilets for women. I was being selfish. A public toilet is such a basic necessity. It needs to be free. Clean toilets are just guilty dreams when you know so many women have to venture out in the open.
In 2011, when a woman from Mumbai, Mumtaz Shaikh started ‘Right to Pee’, a campaign to have more toilets for women, many people laughed, especially men. Through her long battle, she got the Indian government to set aside 50 million to build female toilets in Mumbai. In last one year, they built 96 free-to-use public toilets and it is growing.
How many times have you found a public toilet when you really needed one? Isn’t it about time for Ahmedabad, Gujarat to have a Right to Pee campaign of their own?
(This post was first translated in Gujarati and published in City Bhaskar, Ahmedabad in the 14 Feb 2016 edition. Liked it? Hated it? Let me know! Comment here or get in touch at rtnair91gmail.com)