I live at Senapati Bapat Road, 500 meters away from the hotel Marriott. This road is always packed with people, mostly cars at all hours of the day. Since my college is on this road, I frequently visit the shops, food joints, hospitals, etc. on a regular basis. Most of the time I walk to commute from one place to another. The worst of all walks are when I have to pee or use the loo. There are no public toilets on this road.
While no one has ever questioned me when I walk into Marriott to only use the loo, I realise it is probably because I am ‘appropriately’ dressed. I don’t myself walk in on the days when my attire isn’t decent enough for me to camouflage with the crowd who visit Marriott for reasons other than using the loo. None of the small food joints, petrol pumps, shops have a toilet which could be used by the general public. Given the capacity of my bladder, there have been times when I couldn’t control even for 30 minutes. There was this one time when I was out with my friends in the evening. I had been controlling for a long time and since we were approaching college, I thought I could go in to use the loo. Firstly, I was stopped by the security guard for not carrying my Identity card. We argued with him for nearly what seemed like an hour but it was just 10 minutes. Then when I got inside the campus, I ran to the nearest toilet only to realise that it was closed. So were all the other toilets on campus. It was so bad that finally a security guard had to come and open a toilet for me. I almost peed in my pants by then.
This was in my first month in Pune. From then on, it really made me think… What do the street vendors do? Especially the women? Because it is still not so bad for men, they look out for walls which in bold paint reads ‘DO NOT URINATE’ and go relieve themselves.
A kilometre further is Fergusson College Road. Again, this is a very populated and familiar location with many historical landmarks. This road too has only one public toilet for men. I’ve seen some auto wallas go in and come out but it stinks so bad that a person 50 meters away can take a guess that there is an unmaintained toilet around. The number of people on that street at any given point in time is around 1000 and there are no toilets at all, especially for women.
What do we do? Control? For how long? Why is it still so awkward to talk about using the loo openly?
Sometimes I feel like the concept of public toilets are redefined to the middle class and above. The new one being any toilet which isn’t in their house and at a public location. Toilets like the one on campus or Marriott would be in this category. This is probably why the planners and designers who also belong in the higher classes of society tend to forget the needs of the people who live on roads, whose work place is on streets, and those whose bladders are as small as mine.
Sarayu Nandakumar is a student of Economics at Symbiosis, Pune.
- Sarayu Nandakumar, Pune Nov 17, 2015