One of my friends once said, “It’s funny how in India it’s okay to piss in public, but not okay to kiss in public.” And that, I feel, is Indian mentality summed up in just one sentence. A movement like the Kiss of Love campaign (in which people gather on the streets and kiss each other) received a raging, vehement opposition from people claiming “it isn’t part of Indian culture” – while something like, oh I don’t know, whipping your dick out in public and urinating is just considered normal – for both the people who do it, and the people who see it. For example, if you’re going someplace by an autorickshaw (or any vehicle for that matter) in almost any part of India, this would be your typical view – cars, buses, scooters, bikes, the occasional cycle, pedestrians, shops, trees, a man peeing, others not bothering, you know, that sort of thing.
So a couple of days ago, my cousin and uncle left me to wait in the car while they got out to get something. The car was parked in front of a compound wall. In that short span of about ten minutes, five men – five – stopped to urinate in front of that wall, one after the other. Yes, I counted, because it amused and shocked me – like there was some invisible sign that read “Public Toilet”, that only men could read, one after the other stopped there to urinate. And there I was, in my front row seat, trying to look anywhere but there, trying to think about cupcakes and puppies to distract myself from those utterly disgusting men with zero sense of self-respect (but to no avail). The feeling that completely engulfed me was revulsion – what have we come to? Isn’t it shameful? How is it that a girl wearing shorts receives disapproving, judgemental glares for showing her legs in public, but a man doesn’t, for showing his penis (even if it was just for a couple of minutes – for those who want to argue about the time factor)? It is a public place, a main road, for screaming out loud!
As it got harder and harder to ignore the idiots who came to relieve themselves thus publicly, I wondered if I should get out and make my presence known – would they be too embarrassed to continue? Or maybe I could imitate the girl in that YouTube video and sit down and pretend to pee next to them – to give them a taste of their own medicine and see how they react to that. Or maybe I could roll down my window and yell at them to stop?
And I’m ashamed, because I did none of those things. I just sat there, repulsed, angry and frustrated with myself, for not doing anything to stop it. I was alone, my cousin and uncle were nowhere in sight, and it wasn’t even a familiar place. There could be the positive reaction, the dream reaction, if you will – they would stop, be embarrassed, learn their lesson and be so consumed with shame that they would never pee in public again. And then there could be the negative reaction – this ranged from them ignoring me to eve teasing to flashing to maybe even rape, who knew? Which is why I thought a billion times about doing anything to stop it. And finally didn’t.
And so the problem persists, because the people who do it, do it. And the people who see it, just see it. Nobody stops it. I think its time we all woke up to this. Peeing in public is not only disrespectful to yourself and the others around you, it reflects poor character, self-control and a total lack of hygiene. If you are someone who does this – be ashamed of yourself, and never do it again. If you are someone who has seen it, but not raised your voice against it (like me) – make sure you try to next time.