Journalist, likes people-watching, no-DSLR shutterbug, revels in the absurd and the nutty, loves books, blogs, travel, food, and tries not to be a cantankerous customer.

Sravanthi C

Let’s talk about loos

| Updated on November 19, 2013

The lack of clean toilet facilities can lead to disease and death and be a double whammy, especially for women.

Today is World Toilet Day. The focus is on the world’s poor and marginalised as well as women, who do not have access to hygienic sanitation, an estimated 2.5 billion.

The lack of clean toilet facilities can lead to disease and death and be a double whammy, especially for women, considering it puts them at risk of assault when they go looking for a place to relieve themselves with some measure of privacy. Absenteeism at school and the workplace, more so among women, is another consequence. I even know a girl who did not want to continue working in the office she had interned in because it did not have a separate toilet for women.

I do not think it would be out of place to raise the subject of improved toilet facilities in other spheres. Take trains, for example. This past weekend, I went on a seven-hour train journey. My compartment had only two toilets instead of the four one would expect. Not only was it full, there were many standing travellers both inside and outside. I was sitting in the very last seat and behind me, outside the sliding door to the compartment, were no toilets as I expected but the pantry car which was churning out the beverages, vadas, bajjis and samosas being sold on the train.

The toilets in the next compartment were right behind. The ones on the other end of my compartment were unusable.

It was a miracle that our coach did not begin stinking earlier. Perhaps people held out as long as they could, getting that much closer to a urinary tract infection! (UTIs are another big problem resulting from the absence of decent facilities.)

It was a similar case with the toilets on the onward journey two days earlier – there were four of them, there was even a bottle of soap, but initially, there was no water and by the time supply was restored, they were dirty and it was difficult to use them.

Toilet facilities on the highways are woefully inadequate. On NH5, on which I often travel, there are at least five toll gates in a five-hour journey. But look for a loo, and you would be hard put to find more than two, on any side of the road, during the entire journey. Actually, we found a new one on our last trip, so make that three. It may be too much to expect free and clean public toilets at frequent intervals but why not have toilets at the toll plazas, at least of the pay-and-use variety? Or nearby?

Even places of worship are not exempt from this unholy want of sanitation.

It’s quite a skill timing visits to the loo with their availability, one which many of us hone to a fine art. And while we are on the subject, why not reinforce lessons on responsible and considerate use of shared toilets in offices, schools, and other institutions? On these lines, for example: “If you sprinkle while you tinkle be a sweet and wipe the seat”. And ensure you’ve flushed with success!

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Published on November 19, 2013
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