06 May, 2021

That Stinking Feeling

Even in our cities, women know not to take a good loo for granted

Tribhuvan Tiwari
That Stinking Feeling

Toilets, or rather the lack of them, has a funny way of bringing women together. At Khardung-La, the famed spot in Ladakh known to be the world’s highest motorable road, an unlikely bond formed between women, all tourists, from different countries, cities and ages one afternoon in July. What united them was the fact that there wasn’t a single usable toilet in the area. First, there was collective outrage, and then a common solution was arrived at. Fifty-odd women lined up, in batches, on a side of the mountain, to squat. One batch made sure no men ventured their way, and also kept a close eye on women who were squatting too close to the edge. “Don’t fall off the hill!” was the usual frantic refrain. From then on, pit stops were decided based on whether there would be a usable washroom or not.

Indeed, the availability of a toilet too often dictates women’s movements in India, even in the urban centres. Ummul Kher, 24, follows a simple, if exasperating rule of thumb before she leaves her hostel at Jawaharlal Nehru Uni­versity in the...

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