You’ve been doing a subtle version of the twist, jig and fox-trot for the last 13 & a 1/2 minutes. You’ve been loosening your facial muscles while contracting other ones in an effort to look normal. You finally manage to find a public toilet and then the gatekeeper demands that you pay up 2 rupees before you enter. You flap your hands wildly and nod your head vigorously and hiss, “I’ll pay you later.”
In the corridor, the gatekeeper’s aunties and nieces in various stages of age, weight and nudity, are sprawled in large pools of water, washing themselves and their clothes. You leap and bound across all of them, in imminent danger of slipping into one of the pools, and adding the contents of your bladder to the soapy torrents of water rushing towards the drain.
Inside the toilet, there is no hook for your bag or your dupatta. Your sunglasses hooked on to the front of your kurta fall off, and you catch them just before they fall into the dodgy contents of the Indian style toilet, immensely relieved that you haven’t had to face the moral dilemma of renouncing them or fishing with your hands to procure them back because they are so very, very expensive. Of course, the toilet door doesn’t close, so you hold one stem of the glasses in your mouth, roll the dupatta round and round your neck, sling your bag across your shoulder, undo your pajamas, all with one hand, while keeping the other firmly on the door.
Then you semi-sit-squat-stand, and pee, grateful that you learned this trick long ago, much to the chagrin of your more conservative mother.
And it feels more wonderful than anything else on earth. In your relief, you relax a little, and your hand falls off the door. You remember with a fond smile how your insouciant younger self regularly walked into a 5 star hotel in your hometown only to use the facilities. But the security checks at hotels now could be your undoing, you think. Someone pushes the toilet door from outside and jolted out of nostalgia, you push it back with a loud growl of proprietary anger.
Then you complete all the earlier manouvres in reverse, i.e tying up your pajamas, etc., with one hand and now with one leg thrust against the door as well. Ah, someone may say, “what about washing uhmm your uhmm or dabbing with toilet paper?”, and you say “the least said the better, this is as far as things can go with one hand and one leg out of requisition”.
You come outside, and your spine is a little straighter, and you could be humming if you didn’t see the gatekeeper again signaling for the two rupee coin. “This is supposed to be a free urinal”, you shout, pointing at the notice. The gatekeeper feigns a contemptuous ignorance of any written material. You fling a coin down and walk away, thinking well, you are going to be OK for a few more hours at least.