Notes on a Scandal | Issue 16
Free wees please
On a recent drive to Christchurch I stopped to use a public loo. In the gathering dusk, the cinderblock building looked so foreboding that I seriously considered leaving a Hansel-and-Gretel-style trail from my car, all the better for the police to find my dismembered remains when I met my demise in a manner similar to that of a character from Saw.
While I survived nature’s call unscathed, there are millions of women in India who cannot say the same (segue for the win, right?). Anyone who has seen Slumdog Millionaire will be aware that India has a rather alarming sanitation problem. In a bizarre twist of modernity, in 2010 more Indians had access to a cellphone than to a toilet.
However, while Indian men can relieve themselves willy-nilly any time or place without fear of assault, ridicule, or losing their balance and weeing on their knickers/shoes/selves, Indian women do not enjoy such freedom. Indeed, rural womenfolk often begin their day weeing in fields en masse, giving a new, sinister meaning to “piss-up”.
In cities like Mumbai, both men and women depend on public loos that make said State Highway toilet look like the Prefects bathroom in the fourth Harry Potter book.
Ironically, there are significantly less public loos available to women. Like something out of an as-yet unwritten dystopian feminist novel, those that are available are guarded by men who require payment per pee, although men can widdle away in urinals free of charge.
The toilet tax does not go towards their upkeep. Factor in poverty, the infamous “Delhi belly” phenomenon, and sheer inconvenience, and you have yourself a scandal that has promoted a “Right To Pee” campaign on the subcontinent. Oh, the things we take for granted!
India was recently named the worst of the 19 top economies in which to possess tits and vag. Sex-selective abortion, the dowry system, bride burnings, and acid attacks are all sobering hallmarks of what it means to be a woman in India. But let’s be honest, in New Zealand we find it extremely difficult to comprehend a woman leaping onto her dead husband’s funeral pyre.
But everyone — Jew, Gentile, black, white — knows the primal desperation of needing to take a slash. In the West, we go out of their way to make the excretory experience as meaningful as possible. Our loo is adorned with a nude calendar, a Where’s Wally? poster, and pictures of Kiri Te Kanawa. You can even buy toilet golf. We will likely never know the injustice of having to pay to piss and crap in a reeking hellhole of despair. And thank God for that — I need to lower my handicap.