Journey across Bengaluru city on a whim is a thing of the past. Jammed roads have necessitated planning. What used to take 15 minutes can stretch to an hour on a bad day. A fallout of crowded streets that’s seldom discussed is the issue of nature’s call while you are on road for long periods. This especially gets trickier if you are a woman.
Loo-breaks too need to be planned. City’s walls and trees are of little use if you are a woman. Yes, there are a little over hundred Nirmala pay and use toilets across the city. But most are poorly maintained and that only a weak bladder can dare to venture out there. The “luxury” toilet near Commercial Street is one such example. The last time I was there the toilet was flooded. I was assured it was clean water. But I was sure I needed tetanus shots. This after paying Rs 3.
The women’s wing of the public toilet opposite Mayo Hall is perpetually locked. I once saw a girl trying to get someone to open the locks for her. “Koi nahi aata hai madam” was the caretaker’s response. At the Majestic bus stand, you can smell the toilet from such distances that you decide to hold it in rather than risking it.
Very little thought goes into this fundamental need. Even if the toilet exists, it is not designed for a woman’s needs. Most women carry handbags. There is no provision to keep them dry and clean. They are forced to visit the toilets in twos to take care of this problem. There are no dustbins to collect sanitary disposables either. Let alone toilet paper!
With public toilets being almost inaccessible one has to get creative. Theatres and restaurants provide another means to relieve oneself. But they don’t come cheap. You are not welcome if you are not paying. I heard a group of young women at Rangashankara say, they have the cleanest loos on this side of the town and hence must use it. Such is the desperation.
Shopping malls that have sprouted across the city have had an unexpected outcome and no points for guessing that I am talking about toilets. They are fairly clean, accessible and you don’t even have to pay to use it. It is of course entirely possible that you will buy a pair of jeans for a thousand rupees while you are at the mall to use the toilet. Not exactly economical. But it is still the best option we have today.
So the next time you are out on the road take the route with the shopping malls. My guess is that this contributes substantially to the footfalls recorded in these malls. ⊕