Some days ago, while taking our usual morning walk at the nearby public park, we saw a small gathering of the regular morning walkers. Some of them beckoned us to join them. After the gathering had become sizable, one of the persons (Shanku) cleared his throat and said, “We are proud to announce that the new public toilet of this park will be soon inaugurated – thanks to all of you for the support.” he pointed to a newly erected set of green boxes, which were being given finishing touches. I was not sure of the support I had given, but decided against voicing it.
Attached is a picture of the toilet (appropriately masked/ hazed out to protect the privacy rights of the public toilet – by the way, do public toilets have privacy rights?).
Shanku continued, “We have invited an important officer of the municipal corporation – the DC of …. for the inauguration scheduled on the 15th of this month, at 10:00AM. I request that all of you remember to come for the inauguration.”
“By the way, this is one of the first virtual public toilets in Bangalore”. This elicited some minor clapping and murmurs of appreciation. After some time, a squeaky voice ventured, “But how does one do it virtually? I would prefer to physically use a toilet.” The appreciation changed to apprehension. Soon the confusion was cleared, it was meant to be an e-toilet, with the “e” representing some kind of automated flushing based on electronic sensors.
Shanku tried to regain the control with his next point, “It also has extensive security features – hidden CCTV cameras everywhere.” That resulted in more grumbling “they are going to take my photo while I am….?”. Again, after some consultation, it was clarified that the cameras were not hidden, and were placed just at the entrance to the toilet area.
The next point was identifying the master of ceremonies on the inauguration day. One Krishnan was assigned the role, as he could fluently speak multiple languages – Kannada, Hindi, English, Telugu and Tamil.
We were getting ready to leave, when we heard Shanku say to Krishnan, “We all tolerate you saying ‘tashreef rakhiye’ to us, because we are friends, but please do not insult our chief guest by saying ‘tashreef rakhiye’ – especially near a toilet.” Shanku patted his backside emphatically.
That was when I decided that I should take my tashreef away.
A lot is being done by many agencies in increasing the number of public toilets and their cleanliness, especially cities and larger towns of India. However, a lot more needs to be done. You can get feel of the magnitude of the problem by reading some all-India data here, here, and here.
We need a lot more social enterprises addressing this need till the tipping point is reached – and hope that some of the start-ups and social entrepreneurs work in this area, rather than just build another app to locate the nearest public toilet.