Take the next right. Your destination will be on the left.
A 100 meters later, I reach my destination — the public toilet. The shutters are down and there’s a grill with a giant pad-lock. Making sure no one breaks into it. Damn COVID.
Someone please update Google Maps!
No Irritable Bowel Syndrome or any heavy-duty illness, I just have a weak bladder. When I got to go, I really got to go. So I learned to say these two words:
First word, “Bhaisahab”.
The rickshaw guy puts on his ‘irritated’ face, as I have disturbed him from his nation-building activity of watching videos on Whatsapp.
Days I travel, I plan. Public or private transport? Boxers or briefs? Highway or service road? Pee stops, pit stops or combo pack?
Second word, “Toilet?”
The rickshaw guy’s ‘oh that’ face shows up. “Am new here,” he shrugs and goes back to nation-building.
Am cruising, constantly on the lookout. Glass buildings — members only. I need petrol pumps, bus stands, railway stations; even a mall with the damned security checks will do.
“Bhaisahab, toilet?” I ask a man at a puncture shop. He eyes me with disdain, like I asked him, “Lemme use your FB account”.
I think Swachh Bharat, basic sanitation, while eyeing bushes, abandoned cars and vacant lots.
“Idhar nahi hai!” the man scoffs. I eye the no-mans land right behind his puncture shop. I notice a mongrel sniffing around, stopping near a stone, raising its leg and…
I ride on.
I don’t want to see people, I don’t want civilisation. Remote country; that’s what I want.
I pull up. “Toilet?” That’s all I can say, etiquettes be damned.
The middle-aged security guard deserves the “Bhaisahab”. The knowing smiles of a knowing friend lights up his face. He puts his newspaper down, gets off his chair and leads me to a small structure. Its locked. He unlocks it and steps aside. I step in while he stands guard like a brother.
Tick! A light comes on. My eyes open wide. My nose refuses to inhale. The filth, the squalor, the horror. In the dark, all I had to do was aim and shoot. Now I can see.
I zip up and stumble outside. Gender imbalance, infrastructure, epidemics, minority rights, every problem, each angle — I see it all. The current situation makes sense of the whole system, I cannot unsee it.
I smile back at the idiot of a security guard. I get back on the bike and ride in search of the next, “Bhaisahab, toilet”.