Tuesday, July 9, 2024

Women And Toilet Woes - The Fall of Bladder Queen

 I am not sure of my toddler days, but as a child I would postpone peeing to its limit because usually I wouldn’t want to leave a task without completing it; whether it was reading, writing, doing homework, watching TV or playing, I would hold back until the task ended and then casually walk towards the restroom. I think this habit of not giving in to the demands of my bladder, tamed it to obey me without rebelling. This increased my confidence in rejecting toilets that were not suitable to my standards or just unknown toilets. 

Even when people around me would go in search of toilets, I would proudly announce, those were not fit for me. Slowly the aversion to unknown toilets became an obsession with my bladder itself refusing to oblige to throw the waste product out even when I tried. Eventually it became so that I couldn’t Pee easily in unknown toilets and had no trouble at times ignoring nature's call for nearly 36 hours. 

During hospital emergencies, lab tests etc, it became a big challenge for me to make it happen. It was a huge struggle to let it go rather than holding on. We are often prone to pride, no matter what leads to it. So, I became quite vain and proud that I have complete control over the bladder of mine, whereas mere humans and animals surrendered to it. I had tamed this beast and ruled over it. 

Years went by and somehow it was in my nature not to use restrooms unless they were very clean and I felt comfortable to use them. Since my daughter is with special needs and cannot use squat toilets, I started using adult diapers for her whenever we travelled. Due to her mobility challenge, it was difficult for her to access most of the general toilets as well. I don’t know what the public toilets look like or even the toilets in the wedding halls where my son got married were, because I never went towards them. Both my children also started to avoid using toilets outside home unless it was absolutely necessary. 

Everything in our lives has an expiry date, no matter how sure we are of it. So finally my rule over the bladder reached its expiration when we had to travel to Hanur from Bangalore for training a group of teachers under an educational program we were initiating from our company. I was highly excited with this new development and was ready for the journey by 5.30 a.m. Everything went fine and the weather was amazing with slightly drizzling rain. The training went well. 

Our colleague who stayed in the village nearby organized a great veg-feast for us. We enjoyed our lunch and I had a good amount of fresh buttermilk to go with it. I felt my bladder whisper something and decided to check out the toilet but then ignored it, because I knew they were squat toilets and since the past four years I had found it difficult to squat due to my foot injury. Only 3 hours to Bangalore, not a big deal I decided. My pride and confidence goaded me to ignore the bladder beast completely and get into the vehicle. 

Now I ignored a few more things during my journey to Hanur. I had left very early in the morning and the last time I used the restroom was around 4.30 a.m. The weather was wet and rains encouraged bladder. Because I spoke a lot at the training, I had to drink a lot of water. Add to it that I was the only woman travelling. Why does it matter? It does. Women usually call out to fellow women travellers when they are going towards a restroom, men wouldn’t dare to do it. All these started forming an alliance along with the dripping rain for my bladder to revolt and take its power back. It did with a vengeance .. for the one who had been subdued for decades. I felt trouble brewing when we were 90 minutes on the road. I could feel the push in my abdomen and a force I had never encountered ever before. But I kept holding up thinking ‘I can do it’. I've done it before, right? Then someone mentioned we should stop for a coffee. By now, the bladder was threatening me with an outburst and I was not sure of my strength anymore. I said, “I will come out for a coffee if only the restaurant has a restroom, because I needed to use it” and meekly added, “It would be great if we could stop by a restroom”. My colleagues did not say much, but they understood. We started peeping out for restaurants that would probably have a restroom, but we couldn’t find one. Meanwhile my bladder reminded me of those attacks on forts where they banged on the doors with wooden logs and the doors started to vibrate. I suddenly remembered that our mind could change the environment for us. I tried to imagine that I did not have to pee.. I would never have to pee. Surprisingly, it had no effect. Meanwhile, it started to rain heavily and the dripping water sounds added force to those who were using those wooden logs on the fort door. Suddenly I could smell fear, the fear that I may have to smell urine on me. The thought was terrifying. So far I had never understood what those who were looking for a restroom went through, but now I know. I apologized to everyone who I had made fun of earlier and prayed fervently to the Goddess of bladder (there has to be one) to help me out. Not to embarrass me in my boss’ car among my male colleagues. By then we found a restaurant which looked decent enough to have a restroom. I had put up a brave face until then. But as soon as we stopped I was out of the car and rushed in. A lady who was cleaning somehow understood what I was looking for and before I even opened my mouth, she pointed towards a row of tiny rooms in the backyard at a distance. I confirmed that they were toilets and rushed out there stomping on my pride, ego, and need for clean toilets. I just needed one for now. I was in for a shock. It was tiny, not so clean and looked horrifying. But then the fort door seemed to lose a few chunks and looked like it would give in at any moment. So, I went holding my breath, afraid to breathe. Using the close walls for balance I squatted after 4 years and then I knew how heaven felt like. WHEW! Then again using the walls for balance, I was up and out. Hunger makes the hard beans soft  and urgency makes dirty toilets look clean. My rule was over. 

I know now that I had just a few minutes left before the fort door would have been opened up by the army of the bladder. I don’t want to go there and think about it happening. It is too scary.  I heartily thanked the Goddess who helped me to hold on until then. I learned my lessons and realized that life changes. Maybe the future belongs to the rule of the bladder. 

The comedy of war apart, I also realize how tough it may be to travel on roads without any toilets for miles, especially for those with weak bladders. Maybe it is time for someone to take up the cause and install public toilets at least at the intervals of 25 km on the roads.


Rayyan Lost in Laptop

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