LOOKING FOR THE LOO

I have a great relationship with my bathroom! I see it so often and spend so much time in it that it could very well double up as my bedroom. What isn’t there to like about a place that relieves you of that niggling pain, or helps you relax and cleanse yourself? Which is why I love putting up potted plants, paintings of more potted plants and magazines in my bathrooms. Makes sense to make it comfortable when you want to spend so much time there, no?

But as much as I like my bathroom, I hate my bladder because it has always been the source of embarrassment for me. As far back as secondary school, I’ve had ‘pee’ issues. I was always infamous for being the girl who went every period. At college, if us friends ever decided to go anywhere as a group, someone would inevitably joke, ‘Pradita, make sure you’ve done the necessary before we leave… and no water afterwards!’ What a shame!

Things didn’t improve for me when I got married. My MIL especially would always reproach me for how frequently I needed to go everywhere… and in a Sari too! I think if there is a Guinness record of visiting the most bathrooms in a city, I must be the record-holder because within the first three months of my marriage I had acquainted myself with the insides of each and every one of our family friends’ bathrooms, and the public loos at supermarkets and malls in our area. It got to the point that if an acquaintance wanted to find a toilet in a public place, they would ask me!

It was heaven to know that no one judged you for going when I was pregnant, seeing as how pregnant women have to go a lot. Surprisingly, it’s become better since the birth of my daughter, but even now the odd unfortunate incident does occur, and I still have to maintain my ritual of relieving myself before I venture out of the home… and no water afterwards.

So yes, I hate my bladder and what I hate even more is that it has not an iota of control over what it’s supposed to control and contain – pee! I’ve had misfortunes like missing the school bus, getting an earful from teachers and relatives over my urgency. I’ve lost out on friends and even a potential boyfriend because I got too irritable and screamed at them, all thanks to a bursting bladder. I made friends with Meftal Spas to counter the pain when I had a hold-it-in-thon.

But the most embarrassing moment for me was in Secondary School when I had moved to another city and so had to join a new school. I was new to everything in that city. It was my first day at school and I was, like how most newcomers are, lost. Needless to say, my bladder wasn’t happy with my nervous condition and it quickly starting pinging me evacuation messages. I excused myself from the class and went looking for the loo. The school was huge and old, which meant that I had to walk a lot from one wing of the school to the other as per the directions given by my bench-mate. I ran at the first sight of ‘Toilet’ written on a placard and nearly skidded to a stop when I saw urinals inside. Oops! It was the Boys Bathroom.

Now my bladder had already reached its limit and I was just barely holding on. So my inner-self screamed, ‘The Girls Bathroom is a whole storey up. No one’s here. Just go into one of the stalls!’ And I did. And the moment I did, a boy of about my own age appeared (we must have been ten). He came to a dead halt and so did I. And then he squeaked (obviously because he was embarrassed to see a girl in a boys bathroom. Maybe also because a girl saw him zipping up), “Didi, this is the Boys Bathroom”, and he snuck out of there.

I didn’t pay him any heed. The moment he left, I rushed to one of the covered stalls and relieved myself. Thankfully there was no one else in the bathroom to add to my shame. But when I finally reached the classroom, what do I see? The boy who I had an encounter with was, in fact, my own classmate. He looked at me and giggled, and I could almost see the rest of my future in that school flash before my eyes – being branded “Pee Queen” or smart mouths at school mocking me, “Hey Pradita, looking for the Loo?” Oh god, why couldn’t my bladder just let me be?!

That whole day I kept imagining the worst, that people were staring at me, that they were making jokes and that no one would ever be friends with me in that school. But nothing of the sort happened. Weeks went by and eventually, I got over that incident. I made friends, lots of them and though they all would joke about how frequently I  needed to go, no one ever mentioned that incident. However, I could never look that boy in the eye and never made friends with him throughout the two years that I spent at that school. Also, I double check now if I’m using the Girls Bathroom.

But just four years back that boy got in touch with me through Facebook and when I asked him if he remembered that incident, he said, “What? That really happened? I don’t remember that.” (No wonder I made friends and no one called me Pee Queen at the school) I thanked him profusely for never mentioning it to anyone. He didn’t seem to understand why I was making a big deal about it.

When I look at this incident now I realise just how funny life is sometimes. Such incidents, to some, they mean a lot; they could mean the end or the beginning of something; they could leave a mark on or even scar your memory. And yet to others who may even be connected to the same incident, such incidents could mean nothing at all. This only taught me that I should never take such silly episodes seriously in life because life is much more than that.

Our embarrassment over something is a state of mind. Like how public display of affection is okay with some, yet embarrassing to others. That day I may have been embarrassed by using the Boys Bathroom in an urgent situation. Today? Well, let’s just say my bladder doesn’t leave me an option.

Pradita Kapahi

Image Source: Zorro4 / 142 images

FREE INDIA: I BURNT YOUR HOUSE BECAUSE YOU BURNT MINE

Today is India’s 69th Republic Day.

69 years ago we gave ourselves the Constitution and swore to abide by it as honest, progressive and peace-loving citizens. 69 years hence we are doing everything but that.

We are now a nation that not only endures but covertly even encourages religious bigotry, self-righteous vandalism, myopic sexism and ruthless rioting. Certain sections of our citizens have learnt that the Constitution is actually a toothless tiger. Worse still, some of our countrymen believe that it exists only so that it may allow them the freedom to engage in vandalizing properties, killing their own countrymen, abusing each other’s religious sentiments, violating our men, women and children and terrorizing their own brethren over trivialities like a movie!

This anger in my writing is a reaction towards the fringe mob attack on a school bus which was conveying children to their homes. The mob was protesting the release of the controversial movie, Padmaavat, in Gurugram, India, and had preiously burnt a State Transport bus before setting eyes on the school bus. Those of you who yet do not know of the attack, please head to this link and see the horror for yourself. And those of you who want to know why there are protests over the movie Padmaavat, please click on this link.

Anger swamped me when I first saw the video on a news channel and I’m sure this is the same emotion that must have overcome you while you were watching that video through the link above. These were innocent, harmless children, some as young as 4 – 6 years old, who were heading home from school, while their bus was assaulted with stones and sticks by an unruly mob whose only reason to protest was the release of a movie that depicts a character from folklore…okay, maybe history, but that character is very much dead.

I repeat – this was a ‘moving school bus carrying children‘.

Thankfully there were no casualties, but what if there were? What if the driver got hurt while he was driving, leading to an accident… and deaths? How does attacking children resolve the issue for these rioters? Where do we draw the line between the right to protest and heedless vandalism? If you have watched the video you may have noted the newscaster’s anger and she is right in pointing out, ‘These could have been my children, these could have been your children’. But it’s not just about whose children these were. The bigger question is how do you justify attacking an alive human being over a piece of fiction?

Sometimes I feel freedom is wasted on us Indians because we don’t just misuse it, we abuse it. This is not the only case of abuse of freedom that we have seen within the last one year itself in India. The very start of the year was besmirched by the infamous mass molestation of women in Bangalore on New Year’s Eve, followed by equally shocking incidents like the inter-religious attacks over the beef ban issue, the Bhima Koregaon attack and the northern India riots over Godman Ram Rahim Singh’s rape conviction. But these are bigger transgressions in the name of freedom. How about everyday abuse of freedom – in the blatant violations of traffic rules; in our stubbornness in finding loopholes in the law; in our netas not only supporting but propagating vandalism and unlawfulness; in our ‘chalta hai‘ and ‘jugaadu‘ attitude for everything; in a person spitting or peeing on public property because he can and because there’s no one to put a check on him?

The above instances prove that we have not only no regard for the law, but also that it has become the agitated Indian’s habit to take to the streets and cause mayhem, sometimes going to the extent of drawing blood, in the name of religion, cult, culture and gender? Throughout these incidents, the Police were powerless, the governments inert while the opposition is either muckraking or fuelling the agitation.

What use is the Constitution? What use are these words contained in the Preamble:

JUSTICE, social, economic and political; LIBERTY of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship; EQUALITY of status and of opportunity; and… FRATERNITY assuring the dignity of the individual and the unity and integrity of the Nation…

These are just words if we Indians do not internalize them and base our lives upon these ideals enshrined in the Constitution. My fellow Indians, remember, we are lucky that we have the freedom to do as we please, to go where we want, to worship who we want and to practice what we want. There are many other nations out there where freedom is not freedom in the real sense of the word; where you may be free to breathe, but death is considered a better option. Consider yourself lucky that you are born in a country where tolerance is not just an ideal but a way of life. But in your lust for freedom do not forget that you are part of a bigger thing – you are a nation. You, your beliefs and your actions are what shape your nation. The future of us, our children, will have the same beliefs as you do. Give them a better lesson than violence and intolerance.

Freedom does not mean that you do as you please. If every one of us was free to do as we pleased, we would have anarchy. Freedom comes with a responsibility – that of respecting the freedom and well-being of others. If you don’t respect the right’s of other’s, why will other’s respect your rights? If you have burnt someone’s house to the ground citing religious freedom as the reason, remember tomorrow your house could be the victim of someone else’s right to religious freedom.

Violence does not need a reason but remember that you only reap what you sow.

This Republic Day, let’s take a vow to be responsible citizens. To bring out differences and resolve them by dialogue and not violence. To practice freedom but not out of malice and indifference towards the freedom of others. To abjure inhumanity, intolerance and deviant behaviour that harms the people of this country and the ideals of our forefathers. Citizens, compatriots, this Republic Day vow to rise above your menial differences and become better human beings.

Jai Hind!

Image Source: Catchnews