Bladder Blues – Why Road Trips in India make me Nervous!


I have been following the Incredible India campaign ever since it came into existence…at first with a lot of pride and later as the years passed by, with a growing sense of frustration.

Initially, the pride of being an Indian skyrocketed with the absolutely spectacular campaigns like this one that set Hollywood Movie titles against images from India – or this one at ITB Berlin –

A lot of the frustration, however, has been the direct result of being a woman traveler. I just want to remind all those associated with this campaign that the world may have gone digital but my bladder hasn’t.

Not very long ago, India’s erstwhile Finance Minister Mr. Arun Jaitley sounded some promising bytes on the morning news when he talked about boosting the Tourism industry in the country. In February this year, India Today reported that Foreign tourist arrivals in India had surged by 13.6 per cent to 10.37 lakh by the end of 2016. In anticipation of the foreseeable boom, five special tourism zones have been included in the 2017-2018 budget.

Andre Gomez, Head of Operations – India, Hilton talks about plans to boost regional connectivity and encourage tourists to visit more places within India. Nice. Especially the part about regional connectivity – it reminds me about renal connectivity – about how my kidneys are irrevocably love-locked to my bladder and so on. Not good.

I understand and applaud all these wonderful and grandiose ideas about building up infrastructure, but in all these plans, I don’t see even the remotest reference to building toilets for travelers. And please don’t tell me you referred to the ‘Swatch Bharat’ campaign in your press notes – that was a passing reference that said basically nothing.

The less you speak about adventure sports and water sports the better – it just brings back unpleasant memories. I have had some scary adventures leaping over fences and escaping from leeches to get to safe places that provided me relief from my bladder blues.

As for the ‘culinary experiences’ you talk about, I have not had ANY for fear of NOT finding any loo within downloading distance. I don’t even support the livelihood of those tender coconut and fruit stall owners on the road-side, for fear of being embarrassed by a bursting bladder.

While you’re at it, please stop harping on the fact that India is the greatest destination for yoga. What’s the use? When we (Indian and Western women) want to pee, yoga does nothing for us. Unless you guys know of some ancient asana that instantly freezes the insides of our bladders and turns all liquid to blocks of ice.

You guys ever heard of ‘walking off the beaten track?’ It’s the latest traveling mantra now. Everyone does it, yes even Indians. Especially Indian women, not only because we have thousands of ‘off the beaten tracks’ in our country, but also because we NEED to get out of our houses and offices from time to time and actually walk off some steam.

Ask Mahindra and Mahindra…we bought our XUV based on the promise that as we grew older we could ‘live young and live free.’ Sad to say when my husband and I go driving into the distance, the first thought on my mind is not about how free I am, but how successful I’ll be in freeing the tension in my kidneys – which, sooner or later stiffen in panic with the need to rinse themselves. The ensuing dilemma prevents me from enjoying my beautiful surroundings, the reason why I embarked on a road trip (and bought the XUV) in the first place.

My husband doesn’t have that problem. He drinks loads of water and takes periodic trips into the woods and returns looking visibly happy and relieved. Plus, the view from Mars is a tad blurred and he cannot comprehend why I make such a big fuss about following his example. On Venus, we all empathize – that after giving birth to two kids, everything is not as flexible as it used to be.

As an avid traveler, there are countless journeys I have made on the road in India, USA, South-East Asia, and the Middle East. Every journey is mapped out choosing the best route. Except for my home-country, I have found clean restroom facilities after every few miles. They pop up on GPS’s as well, proving that in most countries ‘nature’s call’ does not necessarily mean license to pee under a tree.

There are only a very few tourist spots in India (I found one in Goa), where you come across decent washrooms with the ‘pay and pee’ facility. But this facility is almost non-existent in other places.

I fail to see why some of the famous tourist destinations in our country do not make this a mandatory tourist facility with round the clock maintenance and cleanliness.

Meanwhile, as travelers, it becomes our duty to leave the facility – wherever we may find it – as clean as we can for the next user. This cannot be stressed enough. We need to evolve into a civic conscious nation that believes and practices the adage -Cleanliness is next to Godliness. We might bristle in indignation when something like this is pointed out to us, but the facts remain unchanged. The examples are all around us.

Last year Lonely Planet’s new book  – ‘The world’s best toilets and locations.’  advertised itself with the tagline “You can tell a whole lot about a place by its bathrooms.” In a similar fashion, the internet is rife with stories from travelers about dirty toilets/lack of clean toilets around the world. Right now India features in all of them.

So what will it take for the ladies of this country – and all world travelers – to encourage the Incredible India campaign to view us and our bladders with a little more respect (and pity)?


This article was first published on Medium at:

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