Over the years, your support has made Women’s Web the leading resource for women in India. Now, it is our turn to ask, how can we make this even more useful for you? Please take our short 5 minute questionnaire – your feedback is important to us!
I flew into a rage. ‘Tell me…where should I empty my bladder after I have had my quota of water? Are we encouraged to empty our bladders at regular intervals? Do we have decent toilets around?’
Every time we travel by car, I desperately look for a toilet. While the men unzip and empty their bladder anywhere, I have to suppress the constant pressure on my bladder. After a while, I cry out to stop the car. The hunt then begins.
If it is a locality, I go around requesting permission from the residents to use their toilets. If it is a desolate stretch, we start hunting for a tree, a huge boulder, or the remnants of a wall – anything that would shield my bottom from prying eyes.
It is at such moments that I feel we can never be equal. The men can do ‘it’ anywhere. But we cannot!
One afternoon, a sudden abdominal pain left me gasping for breath. None of the painkillers worked. A series of diagnostic tests followed. The doctor informs me. ‘Madam, your body needs adequate water. Do you know the benefits of…?’
By then I had turned my mind off the ‘discourse’ and was concentrating on the painting behind him. I suddenly heard the husband say ‘Doctor, she does not drink water at all. I have to pester her.’
That was enough! I flew into a rage. ‘Tell me…where should I empty my bladder after I have had my quota of water? Where, pray tell me? Are we encouraged to empty our bladders at regular intervals? Do we have decent toilets around?’
The men looked back in shock while I sat there thinking of the deep-rooted conditioning in me.
‘No, S! You had it in the last class. The more you drink, the more you need to visit the toilet.’
Lesson – If I drink more water, I will need to pee more. If I drink less, I won’t need to visit the toilet.
Another day, I was refused permission to go to the toilet. On my way home, I wet my pants. The girls named me, ‘Missy wet pants.’ Ashamed, I decided to address the root of the problem.
Lesson – Drink no water before going to school.
Since then, the water bottle came back full, no matter how hot it was.
Every time we stepped out for our annual get-together, Ma’s last-minute instructions would be, ‘It will be crowded. The toilets get dirty. Try not to use it unless it is an emergency. You see, we women catch infection easily.’ Those words remained with me. She was right. Every time I used a public toilet, I ended up with a severe infection, requiring treatment of antibiotics. The sight and stink of the dirty toilets remained firmly embedded in my mind. Less water, I reminded myself!
I grew up learning to restrict water intake and controlling the urge to use the toilet.
Changing a pad, and its disposal usually takes time. The moment I came back to class, I was reprimanded for spending too much time in the toilet. ‘Were you chitchatting with friends?’ The teacher questioned.
Girls who used toilets more frequently were often accused of engaging in gup-shup with friends. Being a nerd and a meritorious student, I conditioned myself to avoid toilets.
Lesson – Good girls seldom take a toilet break.
Every Sunday morning, my father would drop me off at a class which was an hour’s drive. The total time taken in commuting to and from the class was four hours. Every day for four hours, I did not use the toilet, until one day a terrible pain left me unconscious. It was a consequence of holding in the urine for long.
I joined the Social Work course, which had stipulated some hours of service in a rural area.
The first two years were easy as we left after lunch and returned by evening. Rationing water was the secret. During menstruation, I would put on extra layers despite the heat and humidity. Returning at the end of the day with chafed thighs and soggy napkins became a habit.
In the final year, the course was a daylong affair. An early meal took care of the hunger pangs. But what about emptying the bladder and changing a napkin? From morning 9.30 am till 6 pm, it was a challenge to ignore nature’s call. In those days, a toilet in the rural area was unheard of. Women chose to finish it off in the privacy of the bushes located in the outskirts of the village or by the pond.
The little girls there came to my rescue. Leading me to a green patch, they stood with their back, offering me privacy.
2004 – I was working with the district government. The office had four female staff members, including me.
On the first day, I asked my colleague to show me the women’s toilet. She led me to a rickety door, which opened into a small square space. While the men had a spacious toilet, the women had been allotted a tiny space in one corner of the office. The door was almost hanging from the hinges. It was dark with no ventilation. There was no space to turn around. The walls were full of cobwebs. The asbestos sheet overhead had gaping holes making up for the lack of windows. In addition, there was no running water. The sweeper kept a bucket of water every morning and four of us had to ration it. Fortunately, my house was ten minutes away.
Very soon, our department was allotted a new building. It was a relief, for there was a big, spacious toilet. But it would very often remain occupied. It was even more surprising as the women were all at their desks.
The offender was caught. It was not the same man. Rather all the men in our office were using our toilet. When confronted, they retorted that we should be happy. Despite being a woman, we had a job and were permitted to sit with the men, enjoy all the other privileges. We should not make a huge issue about the toilet.
Lesson – Women should be grateful that they have been allotted a space to dump their bodily waste. The credit should be attributed to the generosity of the men.
After the wedding, it was a long journey from my hometown to my husband’s place. I whispered to the woman sitting next to me. ‘I need to use a toilet.’
‘Ssshhh,’ she said. ‘A newly married girl should learn to control her urges. If the car has to stop now, the men will ask for a reason. How can I tell them that the bride needs to use a toilet?’
‘Why not? I am a human being.’
‘A woman has to tolerate everything. Now that you are married, you will learn the new definition of tolerance.’ She further added. ‘Suppress your urge to urinate. The more you think about it, the worse it gets.’
Lesson – Tolerance is the key
Today I am a mother of two and I have decided to unlearn all the lessons I have learned.
Demand toilet breaks. Demand permission to drink water. Drink water in gallons. And drinking water and emptying your bodily waste is not a shame! It has nothing to do with gender. No matter what society tells you.
Women's Web is an open platform that publishes a diversity of views. Individual posts do not necessarily represent the platform's views and opinions at all times. If you have a complementary or differing point of view, sign up and start sharing your views too!
Sreemati Sen, a Masters in Social Work (MSW) From Visva Bharati, Shantiniketan. She is a Development Professional, specialised in Psychiatric care of Differently Abled Children. That hasn’t stopped her from exploring other fields. Years read more...
Women's Web is an open platform that publishes a diversity of views, individual posts do not necessarily represent the platform's views and opinions at all times.
Stay updated with our Weekly Newsletter or Daily Summary - or both!
Paromita advises all women to become financially independent, keep levelling up and have realistic expectations from life and relationships.
Heartfelt, emotional, and imaginative, Paromita Bardoloi’s use of language is fluid and so dreamlike sometimes that some of her posts border on the narration of a fable.
Her words have the power to touch the reader while also delivering some hard hitting truths. Paromita has no pretences in her writing and uses simple words which convey a wealth of meaning in the tradition of oral storytellers – no wonder, Paro is a much loved author on Women’s Web.
This June we celebrate twelve years of Women’s Web, a community built by you – our readers and contributors.
I watched a Tamil movie Kadaisi Vivasayi (The Last Farmer), recommended by my dad, on SonlyLiv, and many times over again since my first watch. If not for him, I’d have had no idea what I would have missed. What a piece of relevant and much needed art this movie is!
It is about an old farmer in a village (the only indigenous farmer left), who walks the path of trouble, quite unexpectedly, and tries to come out of it. I have tried my best to refrain from leaving spoilers, for I want the readers to certainly catch up on this masterpiece of director Manikandan (of Kakka Muttai fame).
The movie revolves around the farmer who goes about doing his everyday chores, sweeping his mud-house first thing in the morning, grazing the cows, etc and living a simple but contented life. He is happy doing his thing, until he invites trouble for himself out of the blue, primarily because he is illiterate and ignorant.