A Peeing Episode That Cost Me 500 Rupees

People in the West think summer is best for road trips. But in India, Summer does not just come with high temperatures, hot wind but also with humidity and sweating. Not only the makeup but also the joyful mood and jeals start to melt and flow with the sweating and perspiration. So for Indians, Winter is the best option.

Especially for people from my part of the country, Odisha whose 7 (Baleswar, Bhadrak, Ganjam, Jagatsinghpur, Kendrapara, Khordha and Puri) out of 30 districts makes a coastline of 450 kilometers, where humid air, sweating, prickly heat are prevalent and not to forget about dehydration and heat stroke during summer, hence winter is the perfect time to go on vacations and on road trips.

So, last month when I got an invitation from Balasore to attend a program, I thought it would be great to travel by road along with my mom and sister. It was like an opportunity for me to showcase my driving skills (every new learner waits for such an instance) before them (though my dreams crumbled down when my mom asked me to hire a driver). Like everyone does, before starting for the journey,  along with searching on Google map and reading reviews, I also asked people around me about the road conditions (though I was aware that it’s NH 16, on which we are going to drive for most part of our journey) and the time duration of traveling. Everyone said it would take somewhere between 3 to 3.5hours by road.

Only one of my senior colleagues warned me, it would take 4-5 hours, as renovation and overbridge work is under progress between Bhadrak and Balasore. Also they have fixed driving speed limits for most parts of the NH (you too need to be careful, or else you are going to end up with challans). It was 5pm, on a winter November evening when we started from Bhubaneswar. After crossing the clumsy and busy traffic of Bhubaneswar and Cuttack, when our vehicle started to move on NH 16, it was an awesome feeling.

NH 16 which was previously known as NH 5, runs along West Bengal, Odisha, Andhra Pradesh and Tamilnadu, with a total length of 1711 kilometers, apart from traveling through various cities it also has beautiful green farm lands and forest patches on its both sides. But as we were traveling on a winter evening, we couldn’t enjoy the landscape, as the darkness spread early. But the arrangements of street lights, road safety reflectors, those beautiful white markings, vehicles crossing each other, the beautiful aucustic music playing from “Music-Love -Travel ”, everything was perfect to relax our mood. The feel was like we were driving inside a sci-fi movie! 

After traveling for about 2 hours we stopped at a small market place for snacks and tea. We looked around, but couldn’t find a place to loo. By that time my sister and I had already engulfed around 700 mls of water from the bottle we had purchased from the tiffin stall. We looked at each other and capped that bottle. After driving for about 45 minutes, it was my sister who asked me, “how many minutes are left to reach Balasore? ” I switched on my navigation to find exactly how far we were from our destination. But as usual, technology gave me a back stab at the time of need, and didn’t work. Then I looked towards the driver, and he said “can’t tell exactly”! Another 15 minutes passed, and my sister started, ” do you remember, while traveling through Rajasthan by road, they have nice facility-centers on both sides of the road! ” I turned my head back, and asked her, “why suddenly Rajasthan? ”

Turning her eyes from me, looking into the darkness outside the vehicle, she replied “I need to use the toilet! ” And to be truthful by that time my situation was also not less than hers. While crossing all those roads I was constantly looking outside to find a place to relax ourselves. The feel of ‘sci-fi’ movies have been occupied by horrible experiences by then. It was more than 3 hours before we peed last, before starting from home. Though I was carrying 4 water bottles, kept at each door, we dared not to touch them, even if we had the urge. 3.5 hours had passed, the construction and renovation work near Bhadrak had suddenly narrowed the 6 lane NH 16 to a single ordinary road. Vehicles were coming from both sides, no way to overtake any vehicles.

Sudden and shocking jerks due to pits on under construction roads were putting even more pressure on our bladders. I was really jealous of our driver, how conveniently and peacefully he was sitting in his position. How fortunate he is, that he can release himself near any tea stall or tree or road side. But for women travelers in India, on any road trip, lack of toilet facilities and the difficulties have always been there. Women taking night buses for long distances often abstain themselves from taking water or food. Many times they make a group, opt for roadside bushes or cultivated lands and not to forget about the risk of insect bites or allergies following that.

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Even at instances you have to forget everything and go to the back side of the bus, just close your eyes and sit there to release the pressure, asking a fellow traveler to keep a watch (I still doubt how useful that is,  someone standing on your backside and keeping a watch). While traveling in Rajasthan, I have seen many good and clean washrooms available on road sides (washrooms and drinking water facility at every tourist attraction). Also in Northern (Punjab, Haryana, Uttarakhand, parts of UP) India you can get toilets near Dhabas and Restaurants. Even in Meghalaya, I have observed many roadside restaurants have decent washroom facilities. 

With all our experiences from various road trips in different states of India, I asked my driver to stop the car near a restaurant. It’s a small bazaar with a few tea stalls and a bunch of 3-4 restaurants and dhabas. Even before we got down from the vehicle, a boy from a restaurant approached me, asking what we wanted for our dinner. Instantly I asked him, “does your restaurant have a toilet facility?” With ease the boy replied, “you can use the back side of our restaurant, it’s all dark there and no one visits there. “Do you remember “Wrong Turn”, such was the expression on my sister’s face. Then I walked up to a dhaba, and the result was the same. Instead of asking about the menu, I kept asking for washrooms.

We started  moving again. Instead of reaching our destination, finding a toilet (even if not decent) was all in our mind by then. Then suddenly my mom recalled, how we’ve used the washrooms near a petrol pump, while refueling on our way back home from Nilamadhab, Kantilo. And then our search was shifted from restaurants or rest areas to petrol pumps. We found one, but they didn’t have any washrooms to use for customers.

Again I searched on google maps for a filling stations on our way to Balasore. Found one nearby, on our way. 4.5 hours have already passed, our bladders were feeling like bursting. Though our destination was only 30 minutes away from the petrol pump we have found but didn’t want to take risk of finding the right way to the hotel, meeting the people waiting to welcome us, completing all check-in formalities, saying good night to our host, then entering to our allotted room and then using the washrooms. When I asked my driver to stop at the petrol pump, he replied “there is enough fuel left in your tank. It’ll last even after we get back to Bhubaneswar. ” 

I asked him, “still we need to refuel it as we are in an emergency of using the toilet.” He parked the car near the refill tank, and I almost jumped out of the vehicle. The fuel attendant asked me “Kete (how much)? ” And I replied, “Bhai, do you have washrooms to use? ” He looked at me, with his hands showing me the direction, replied, “in that way”! I asked the driver to refill the tank. My lower abdomen was bulging out from my jeans and top like a balloon by then.

We almost ran to the washroom area. When we returned, the refilling was done. I asked the fuel attendant how much I need to pay, and he replied ” 500/- didi”. I took out a 500 rupees note from my wallet and handed it to the attendant. We came back into the vehicle, put our seat belts on, started our journey again. In a chuckling voice my mother said, “you must be feeling wonderful for peeing in exchange for 500 rupees na”! Though we all burst into laughter at that moment, but it’s not a matter of laughter at all. 

Though I don’t remember the name of the author, but many years back I have read in an article in the editorial page of a news paper, “gradually the peeing or urinary system of Indian women might get rudimentary”, referring to the lack of toilet facilities on our roads and tourist facilities in India. And the situation is still the same. I’d forgotten about the peeing episode that cost me 500 rupees, soon after returning to my work. But very recently my small visit to Jhumuka Dam, made that memory fresh again. We were a group of five girls, reached the reservoir at around 10am, roamed and had a little snacks and water there.

Once the photography sessions were over, suddenly each one of us felt the urge. But not to be astonished, there were no places to relax, no washroom facilities! We’re fortunate enough to find a newly developed eco park near the dam on our way back (around 4-5 km from the dam) . When we entered the park, I saw a board of a restaurant inside. We approached the office area. A gentle man came down to greet us. Before he can ask us if we’re going to have our lunch there, I asked beforehand “do you have a place to pee? “

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