Being a filmmaker I travel with my camera on shoots – at times at the oddest possible hours in the oddest possible places (no shadowy claims to being a sting journalist though). And on these travels I have often experienced the sheer desperate need for a toilet.
Women suffer. Learning the art of hovering precariously on soiled public toilet seats, extended lessons in self-control till we trace a decent cafe (read McDonald’s: a new aspect of McDonalisation) or standing in a snake-like queue before a women’s loo.
I recently visited Manali by bus and had to warn the driver of grave consequences for him if he did not stop the bus at the next petrol pump for a much-awaited loo break. I waged the verbal battle alone, but as the bus stopped I noticed that various cross-legged ladies were waging their own waterloos. And in no time they made a beeline to the toilet. Most societies have a fair share of revulsion for and disgust of human waste. For many, including ours, even a mention of toilet habits is to be avoided. Therefore vocalising thoughts about this aspect of the human physiognomy is generally considered infra dig and thus does a spiral of shunning silence swirls around the end products of the human excretory system. This culture of containing has perpetrated collateral damage — especially those belonging to the female gender. Not vocalising the need to go to a toilet is perhaps considered a part of the womanly virtue of self-control. So even if the need were irrepressible, the lady would curtain it naturally until she is back in the haven of her home. Many of my women colleagues never excuse themselves during meetings, although they may later readily narrate their suffering.
The Victorian rulebook expands. Essentially, even impolite sounds should only be privy to the four walls of a bathroom enclosure. So many women flush constantly or run the water tap while they are on the job. In Japan, things have reached such a level that there is even a separate battery-operated device, known as the Otohime, attached to the walls of women’s toilets. The device creates a loud flushing sound similar to a toilet being flushed. Through this, some 20 litres of water on every toilet use is saved, as the women use the simulated sound now rather than flush constantly.
Obviously these devices are almost never installed in men’s restrooms.
Given this mindset, it is easy to ascertain the reason for the state of our public toilets. Many loos in restaurants — some of them boasting rave food reviews — leave me shocked. They lack even basic standards of sanitation and cleanliness. Let’s, therefore, spare a thought for women’s constant battle of waterloo and do something about it.
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