July 2006: The Founder and Sole Official Member of the Stop Pissing in My Face Society has her say…
Okay, here’s the thing. I hate being flashed. I hate having to see men expose themselves to me. Every woman does. It violates a very basic right—the right to choose. I choose to live in India, to see the sights I see. Cows on the road and the filth on the streets I can live with: I accept what I cannot change.
I hate being flashed. I do not want to accept it. Unfortunately, I get flashed everyday. You, as men, get flashed everyday. You don’t see it that way, I know. But isn’t it true? You see penises in public all the time. It’s what we’ve learnt to see and accept as pissing. It’s bad enough when men flash as an actual active act of aggression. When it’s seen as routine and harmless—I don’t know whether it’s worse!
Unfortunately, the average Indian man thinks nothing of whipping his thingie out in the middle of the day and street and laying claim to the closest wall/shrub/tree/drain/breeze. Put that thing damn thing away and find a loo! Standing, squatting, whatever their personal preferences, while some men seem aware of the wrongness of their actions, and make a pretence of embarrassment about their public ablutions, most seem absolutely nonchalant, and even find time to hold conversations with others while they relieve themselves in public. Why? Is there no shame in making our not-so-beautiful country smelly too? Much like women Down South who paint their faces with turmeric paste (yellow is a not-too-healthy human colour, but anything’s better than black, you see), Mother India is painted urine-yellow and has really bad body odour.
Why do we live in the biggest toilet in the world? There are better ways in which we can contribute to the smells and sights of our country.
What is it about Indian men that makes it okay for them to relieve themselves wherever they choose to? Why is it acceptable? It started as a necessity—we were a poor nation and were backward, and had no toilets. Now, we are wealthy and progressive. Yes, there are people who live in the slums, who do not have access to toilets. As much as it’s unfortunate, it’s acceptable. But what about those men who step out from their spanking Mercedes, spotless shoes and all, who have ready access to urinals, or at least know enough to be aware that in all probability there’s one around close enough and it won’t kill them to wait. And those cyclists, peons in offices, who know they’ll get there eventually, if not soon. What about them?
Also, while we’re at it, why men and not women? Apart from the obvious of course. It’s not acceptable. Or safe. For a poor little woman to relieve her bursting bladder on the street would mean curiosity, if not rape. So then, we come back to the inequality of the sexes. I think, being allowed to piss anywhere, at will and leisure, is the first sociological step to making Indian men the patriarchal MCPs that they tend to be. After all, little boys are taught that they never need have any control, never need have any respect for general and personal space. And that they are entitled to impose their bodily fluids and penises on the world at large. And that little girls are not allowed to do any of that.
As a mother or a father, I hope you don’t pull your son’s pants down and allow him to piss on the street. I hope you don’t teach him that this is okay and acceptable. Because it’s not.
I must admit, I rather enjoy my role of Founder and Sole Official Member of the Stop Pissing in My Face Society. Though in its infancy, this society has had several achievements. So far, there are four little boys in and around Colaba, and one in Bandra, who, I am sure, will never piss again. Never. Not on a wall, not in public, never. And there is one middle-class mother who has been told that, since she believes that her son is ‘only a baccha’ and that his urine is really harmless, should dr*nk it. And then there’s the Flick-Lungi-Up-Piss South Indian man who will always remember the time he couldn’t aim away from his feet because his willy was tucked away between his legs in shame. I hope you join my little society here and help make the country a slightly paler shade of yellow. Yell at/mock/shame/embarrass the next man you see who just couldn’t hold it.
We see signs telling us not to spit in public everywhere. Are we too embarrassed to address this way more offensive and in-your-face social custom? The police, that is so active in its drive against couples and their ‘public indecency/obscenity’—doesn’t it think that the Public Display of Penises is obscene?
The general public has come up with some rather ingenious ways to deal with the smell and the nuisance. From the subtle god-tiles on boundary walls (no one will piss on those!), to the direct ‘Yahan mootna mana hai’, to the classic ‘Dekho, dekho ghaddha moot raha hai’, there are things that work! These measures are just not enough though.
Really, there is a reason the penis is part of the pubic region, and not the pub-l-ic region. I wish more men would learn to keep it that way.
An edited version of this article appeared in Man’s World in July 2006.
I’m a little less militant (more empathetic?) now, and have mixed feelings about The Pissing Tanker that made its way around Mumbai in 2014.