Friday, June 3, 2011

TO PEE OR NOT TO PEE……..!

 
I was on a bus yesterday traveling from Nagapattinam to Chennai! The bus started at about 1.30PM from Nagapattinam and chugged on along the highway through the afternoon heat. After about 4 hours of travel it stopped suddenly – there were no shops or restaurants nearby. I wondered why this unscheduled stop?  Realized the answer soon enough as the men in the bus started to troop down outside and to the bushes adjoining the road and came back into the bus looking very pleased with themselves!

I looked around at my women co passengers wondering if anyone would venture out. But none did and so we chugged along with the pee swishing  inside our bladders!

This, my friends is the plight of most women in a public place or a public transport that is without an enclosed toilet. 

I remember a discussion with some friends of mine about what we hated most about being women- dowry, female infanticide etc etc surely. But more practically we felt it was the inability to pee at will. I often look enviously at men who can pee anywhere without a thought.

The government offices are often the worst in terms of facilities relating to ladies toilet. Yes, there is usually a loo but it is securely locked and no one knows where or who is the holder of the keys.

For those of us who work in the non profit sector travelling to god forsaken places it is more of a problem than our sisters who have the benefit of office based jobs with a toilet. Often we are in unfamiliar locations alone and a toilet is probably the last thing we want to look for on our own. This reminds me of an incident in college when we were travelling by a night bus in Gujarat as part of a college rural trip. The bus stopped at about 1 AM at some unknown place and my friend …  S… wanted to pee. I decided to accompany her and we ventured out in the dark to what looked like a toilet. I asked her to go in first since she appeared to be more in need of a toilet than me. After about a minute I heard a scream and there was S rushing out holding her pyjamas at the waist screaming.. apparently the “toilet” in question had an opening at the back through which some pigs had made their way inside while she was at the job! Of course all this screaming had attracted a lot of attention and finally even those who were contemplating the bushes nearby decided not to !

I have never understood this practice of locking women’s toilets in public places or institutions. Even my  prestigious  alma mater  in Mumbai had the practice of locking ladies’ toilets after 6 PM. So if one had to use the toilet we would have to trudge all the way to the girls hostel. I had to deal with this emergency during a campus interview when I was the next candidate in line. There was no time to go to the hostel. So, I asked one my male classmates to stand guard while I used the gents toilet!!! Desperate situations call for desperate measures folks!!

 The other day I was passing through T. Nagar where I spotted a traffic constable leaving his post and going to the nearest wall…!  I wonder how women constables must be managing?
I don’t know about others but I cope with this problem of inability to relieve myself by reducing my intake of water – BAD I know but there is no other way!! I found a lot of my women colleagues in the non profit sector also do this. One of them was seriously ill with a kidney problem on account of this.

Silly and trivial though it seems I think the access to clean and safe toilets in public places is one of the basic rights and for women it is more than just that – it encourages our participation in a lot of spheres. For e.g  a study conducted by an NGO found that there was increased female drop out in schools which did not have toilets. This drop out was more at the middle school level when girls begin to grow up and cannot relieve themselves in public.

I know we women have been taught to repress and deny the existence of a lot of our bodily functions but that does not mean that it is not a need. It is certainly a need and  unless we begin to voice it without embarrassment the world would continue to pretend that women do not need to relieve themselves. So.. as one of my friends responded to my text message on the men on the bus getting down to pee while the women stayed inside I would say that if the bus does not stop somewhere safe for women to pee at reasonable intervals of time during a journey – the next time the men leave the bus to do their job we should do it inside the bus to teach them a lesson!!!!!

33 comments:

Tomz said...

Dont worry..development will come..more development..and everywhere in India u will see public toilets, neat, clean and hygienic..at that time men and women will have the same rights..:)

KParthasarathi said...

You have highlighted a very pertinent issue.This has never received due attention.The quantum of toilets in work places for women are hardly adequate and there are no rest rooms on the way in case of long journeys by road.Luckily wayside restaurents are opening up their toilets for the passengers.
We have a long way to go compared to what I see here in US.

Shri Ram Ayyangar said...

This problem exists for both the sexes in India. But now Sulabh and such NGOs are constructing public toilets in cities but still a long way to go.
Currently I am in Sunnyvale,California US and find that here too there are no public toilets on road sides or shopping complex. One has to use the rest rooms in some shop or hotel near by for which also one has to travel 3-4 miles! Its so embarrassing to enter such establishment just for this purpose!

Ibhade said...

Same problem here...they locked it up so as not to be messed up? I don't wear tights or trousers but skirts with big head ties so that i can quickly squat behind any bush and do my business with my head tie used as a covering...laughed at your friend's experience..am sorry..it was not funny that day i know...well, it got to show how 'easy' a man's life is.

Deguide said...

Being diabetic patient men too face a similar experience in cities. I believe there should be more public utility toilets built and open for 24 hours. I agree that men may escape, but with zooming cellphone cameras people are bound to click and paste it on FB or any social networking site. Lolz

PURN!MA said...

I totally agree, Meera! every time during bus journeys; esp the long, overnight ones; it is one big hell! while men go abt doing their business in the nearby zhaadis, we are working ways to "control"... God! And as for the public restrooms - I think I will let it be! :(

IRFANUDDIN said...

A bold writing i must say....

and i personally think that this issue must be looked into more seriously, bcoz keeping it for long inside the bladder sometimes may leads to infectious diseases i think....

Gayu said...

Yes every woman faces this...n ur solution seems apt...to teach them a lesson:P...
On a serious note government has to look into it...it is a matter of hygiene.

dr.antony said...

That is probably the only advantage of being a man!
But then,what prevents women from peeing in public? We have made it a notion that women are not supposed to do it,thats all.I am sure,men would look curiously to begin with.
And in places like ours,I would prefer to do it outside than using the toilets.One cannot go close to the toilet for fear of getting unconscious.Most of the public toilets are filled and overflowing,being used by all the street dwellers.
In civilized societies,they have made it a point to provide clean toilets all through the highways. They are the cleanest looking places.

Jokes apart,this is one issue we have to deal with and with serious concern.I had once written to story of a woman tourist who was looking for a toilet at a bus station, and turned back from the sight of it,and was in real agony,finally her clothes getting wet.The woman was almost in tears.This is in a place where we advertise' Gods own country' inviting tourists.

Meera Sundararajan said...

Thank you all for your comments. I am so happy to see that so many men also empathise with our problem. I think the need to keep a public place clean in very important. Dr. Antony I agree with you but then if people cannot keep a bus station clean do you think that they would keep a toilet attached to it clean? Infact people in rural areas do not want toilets because they see them as dirty places - but then that is how we maintain it...!!!

mannbikram said...

I guess the problem is not putting public toilets but Takeing care of them .. thats what the problem is ..

There are many many public toilets well in my city chandigarh for sure but they stink and i would not go there ...

Bikram's

Deepa said...

A very pertinent issue. Even I ration the water I drink while on travel so that I do not have to pee. And looking at the state that public toilets are in, I'd much rather use the great outdoors. I feel the risk of picking up an infection is less that way. I remember during MA we had gone on rural camp and took the bus back. On the way one of our classmates had to pee. DESPERATELY! Poor girl went and asked the conductor to stop the bus. He refused. Can you imagine? Then we created a huge fuss and he was forced to stop the bus. She was in such a state that she just ran out. Didnt much care who was looking. Insensitive bugger the bus guy.

Cloud Nine said...

Absolutely most needed right to all of us women. I loved the last line- we must do it in the bus next time. Being a Government servant who had worked in most remote places, i have always suffered from such issues. Most of my colleagues land up with kidney related complaints very early...Too bad we are second rate citizens even in peeing!

kamalika said...

The article is nice but dont blame the world of men. it s our social IRRESPONSIBILITY to give more weight to FREE TV and FREE GRINDER to a FREE TOILET. No one talked of Well maintained Toilets at Public places and along roads for TRAVELLERS. both the ppl get bothered by this,.. if womn suffer 80% then its 50% for men. For sure OUr socitey needs a change in managing HYGIENE POINTS for people even at a reasonable price.

Meera Sundararajan said...

@ Kamalika it is sad but no government would win an election on promises of toilets in public places - that is how our society is. Even in schools where toilets are there I found that the teachers keep it locked and girls cannot use it. I think unless and until we change our mindset like Bikram says about keeping public toilets clean this issue will continue!

anindita said...

When I was the team leader during my previous posting, I told the ladies, 1. Do not reduce water intake while on field. 2. Do not hesitate to ask the driver to stop at near some bush for reducing the burden on bladder. We also would use the bathrooms in the houses of some of the women who would come for the meeting/ whom we were visiting.

I saw that at Nikhil’s place at Dahod, the driver himself was sensitive enough to stop the vehicle at reasonable intervals and ask the ladies if they would like to go out. I was impressed at his sensitivity.

However, most of the time I refrain from using the public toilets, for fear of getting infection, they are in such a mess.

Thus, moving in the field was not a pain for me but yes as you mentioned the long bus journeys were indeed terrible.

Also, in most of the offices of milk unions I visited, there were no separate ladies’ washroom or it was locked and we had to ask some man to unlock it for us. I told my team members, don’t be hesitant even to ask the men to open it. Dont stop yourself from using toilets/ going to the bush. But I wonder how do the few women employees working there, manage! For that matter, I also wonder how do the ladies who come to our campus as domestic help manage for the entire day!

Rhapsody B. said...

Namaste....
You have to do it like we did in the Caribbean when faced with this dilemmma we formed a circle around and allowed each woman to pee, in effect we became the barrier between the world and the woman peeing. Or if we had a big piece of cloth then we use it as a barrier, as women we had each other's backs. Its not healthy to hold your pee, in fact its down right dangerous.

Have a blessed day....
Stop by sometime and say hi....
Stay blessed.
Rhapsody

Basil said...

reminds me of an incident few months that our adventure junkie group had. well we were returning back to goa from dandeli in our hired temp traveller. along the way, there was this girl who badly wanted to pee, and was feeling really uneasy, but the area was not appropriate. time elapsed, and we came to an isolated area with bushes either side of the road. And we, dozen odd of us trooped out of the vehicle, and decided on directions - the boys to the left side, and the girls on the right - of course, they had to venture deeper into the forest. They don't have the thing like we, males do - to stand, aim and shoot :P PJ apart, point here is we are differently made and the female kind is subject to The Above's discrimination, blasphemous as this utterance may be ....

Goldenbeast said...

Hi, it's a well known problem. This has taken humongous proportions. I travel a lot in bus, being a male, I would relieve in roads as well, but a growing trend which I see these days is that young women of their 20s and even 30s are not shy to relieve on roads. So many times during a travel I have noticed women blatantly stopping the bus to pee. So, there would be a day where we can see women watering the walls as well... :P On a serious note, the trend is getting worse. Sufficient provisioning of public loos should pave the way moving forward!

Arup said...

Public toilets are pretty bad world around, believe me I know as I have traveled all over. Why are women hesitant or shy in today's day and age to pee outdoor in case of an emergency. Would they rather risk infection and discomfort or worse, wet themselves. Nowadays women are far more confident about their bodies and when they have to go in an emergency, they do so just like their male counterparts.

Arup said...

Public toilets are pretty bad world around, believe me I know as I have traveled all over. Why are women hesitant or shy in today's day and age to pee outdoor in case of an emergency. Would they rather risk infection and discomfort or worse, wet themselves. Nowadays women are far more confident about their bodies and when they have to go in an emergency, they do so just like their male counterparts.

Rhapsody B. said...

Namaste, I am shaking my head in laughter, recognition of the issue, comprehension, solidarity and outrage all in one. In Trinidad where i grew up we as women if in groups would create a circular wall around each other, each taking their turn to pee. Then one act as that wall, if we have a big skirt then we would open it to assist in sheilding the woman that's peeing. If alone even though frightened we would squat in an alert fashion, quickly pull the panty to the side instead of pulling down that way its must easier to simply let go, jump up and run. Have mercy, peeing, wanting to pee and scoping out appropriate places were an adventure in itself. Often like you mention we women would go through 'standing pee envy' wishing we were men in that moment so were can whip out that charlie and do the deed!

I think I am going to re-blog this as a guess post so that the audience that I reach may have a say as we women put voice to a normal bodily function that for us is a trial on that can had dire consequences medically speaking as its not healthy to hold ones pee for an extended period of time.

Rhapsody B. said...

I think i will just put a link, actually create a side bar for interesting posts and have others visit. I do not want to take liberties with your work.

Rhapsody B. said...

Namaste...
I have google+ this article by placing a link on my google+ page.

I am forming a community on google plus and would like you to be a member. just paste the link and login with your google account. https://plus.google.com/101099217204323189067

have a blessed day

UB said...

Please don't get me wrong, but I have always wondered why they did not invent a device that would make it easy for the ladies to pee at will. Even with my limited understanding of the biological parameters, it still feels like it should be easy enough to develop a penile contraption that can be inserted and render it equivalent to the men.

I'm just a sincerely concerned male who feels it is unfair. So please don't get me wrong.

Meera Sundararajan said...

@ UB are you suggesting something along the lines of a catheter? Ouch!!! Why not do something simpler- make public spaces more women friendly by having more toilets or teaching our daughters to be more vocal about expressing their needs?

Goldenbeast said...

Hey, actually there are some devices that allow women to pee standing like the shenis or something like that. I am not sure of their availability in India. Even if they are available I am not sure how many women would take advantage of that or would they be comfortable in relieving in open (you need not expose your parts at all) with the help of that. But I can see that young women these days are more vocal about it. Last week when we went for a camp, women stopped the bus (ahead of men), went at the backside and relieved... after all its our bodily function and has to take place without much fuss... they even did not mind a few local men who were standing on the road... days are fast changing... and last but not the least, when you gotta go, you gotta go!

tushgpats said...

Our government is up with all sort of Bullshit"Mumbai to be Shanghai,Free cellphones for poor people"what the hell.Can't they first build some more free loos for public? and just one tip,while traveling make sure to be wearing black sarees,trousers,skirts etc coz even if it leaks it won't show.

tushgpats said...

Our college has no washrooms for girls except for 2.one in the chem lab and the other in the library with only one cubicle each.i just wonder how do girls manage entire day without a pee.many girls may not be even aware about these two facilities.

Reema Sahay said...

Hi, I am reading a book called 'Why Loiter?'. It is about women's right to access of public space, and the point you have raised is part of the argument. How there are no or poor facilities provided for women. Highly recommend it.

Nirmala Selvam said...

Very well written Meera !

Samuel Smiles said...

I just happened to go through your blog which has nice collection of topics. This one impressed me a lot that I should give a comment. Yes I do agree with your concern that public toilets for women have to be installed. But again how general public are using the toilets, not properly flushed and desecrated and left to sticking. Suggesting that women should also have the liberty of men to pee at will is in bad taste. It is not a question of right and will. It is matter of propriety. I really do not have any regard for men who pee at any place without minding other people. May they are showing their masculinity and arrogance. It is shame on men who bereft of any decency in this regard. The men have take the lesson from women in this conduct. It is my suggestion to everybody when you go on long tour take adequate precautionary measure and reduce the hardship. Regards.

Sunitha SN said...

It happened to me and my friend when we were travelling by bus. After two hours of our journey both of us felt the urge to pee. We controlled it for almost another hour after which the bus stopped at a place, luckily for us there were decent toilets but unfortunately there was a big queue. We were not even moved in the queue and it was time for bus to move. My friend was already in teary eyes. After another half an hour into the journey we asked the bus driver to stop, but he refused saying he had already stopped and there will be no stops again. Helplessly we came back to our seat. Everybody in the bus were looking at us. We tried controlling, my friend started praying to god. But all of a sudden driver applied brakes causing a big jerk in the bus, that was it for the full bladder, all our efforts and prayers went in vein as we both lost control on our bladders and wetted our dress and the bus seat. We were very much embarrassed for days together. But for me the question is who has to be blamed for our embarrassment? Ourselves or bus driver or queue or what ???

Post a Comment

 
;