Now that I have mustered some courage to talk about this, let me open it up. I have realized that the first question I ask to anyone who invites for a dine out, or if I’m asked to come to a place for translation work, even if I have to go to bank or shopping complex is that ‘does the place have a restroom?’ everytime I book a ticket in bus I would ensure that the driver stops whenever he is asked to. Trust me, it is not as easy as it sounds. You may have to face odd looks, mockery and what not. I remember my ex boss was very suspicious whenever I was not in the seat, it was hard for him to believe that someone could use rest room as frequent as you could imagine. He thought I was busy chatting with my boy friend over phone in the restroom. I did not pay any attention to my costume or any other arrangements for my marriage , I was only concerned about managing to stand for hours and hours. One of the worst nightmares I ever had is to wet the wedding saree in presence of 1000s! Uff .
I took break for 3 months from work because of the fear of being mocked by peer group. I could write a book on these experiences. I was denied permission to use a restroom in the clinic , apparently it was inside the doc room. The only feasible solution was to run to the nearest hotel. For no reason I made it mandatory that I get a parcel from the hotel whenever I use their rest room. It was almost 9 hours journey in a bus and driver did not stop anywhere despite several requests. I was almost in tears but it did not move him. I was wondering if I was the only person in this world with a bladder that has an urgency quite often. I went inside an ice cream shop and was disappointed to see that it didn’t have a rest room. When I asked the girl working in the shop, she said she has to go to the complex behind the shop and mostly during lunch break she would go, because she is monitored in cctv and she would get a call the moment she steps out from the shop during office hours! Have heard suchlike heart breaking stories. Why is that the need to have a restroom is always trivialised?
Once, the interviewer was perplexed on seeing my face turning red. Interview was almost over and I knew I will be asked to leave the room in some time. I was tensed, nervous , almost shivering. Coz I was not prepared to get up from the seat that time, I wanted some time to make sure that I don’t wet my pants! I even did a dumbest thing of asking my partner not to hate me for this! Such is the guilt that it brings to one. Why? Why do I have to suffer in silence, why do I hesitate so much to ask someone if I could use rest room. Why do I always have to wait till I return home. I refuse to believe that restrooms are privatised even if it is inside a private office or hotel or school or whatever. It is an inhuman act to deny someone to use a rest room just because one does not belong to that place. Now, I realized urinary incontinence (please google) is not terrible, insensitive attitude towards it is terrible. I no longer hesitate to ask this question ‘does your place have a rest room?’. Recently a scholar from UK wanted to do translation for her in an union office. I spoke to the co ordinator and was surprised that the union office did not have a rest room! I refused to come to the place and the venue was changed to another office where they had one.
If anyone of you are going through the same medical condition, all I want to say is that , it is OKAY to ask someone if you could use the restroom even if you don’t belong to that place , even if you don’t know any one there. It is okay to take breaks, no matter how many times it is! It is okay to interrupt your boss in midst of a meeting, it is okay to ask the driver , it is okay to ask your interviewer, it is okay to ask even a stranger. Nothing is more important than your health and it is our basic right. There is no shame on it. They say that offering water to guest is one of our traditions, may be to let them know that they could use the rest room should also be one of our traditions , especially to the service man and maids who come to your house. Let us be more sensitive towards people, do not laugh , do not give stupid advice like drink less water, stay away from ac, wear adult napkins. Do not talk about feminism, communism or any ism if you think there should be alternative solutions for people who have incontinence. The only way to help them out is to stop questioning people who use restrooms often.
(Arthi Vendan is a Ph.D Research Scholar from Bharathiar University)