World Toilet Day: Delhi Public Urinals

Delhi urinational point
A man waits for his turn to urinate at a public Pesab Ghar in Chawri Bazaar, Delhi.

Today is the World Toilet Day and, I am not making this up but what a coincidence, I need to go to toilet immediately.

[After 5 minutes.]

But it’s easy in Delhi, compared to Kathmandu, to attend nature’s call. Public conveniences, particularly for urination, are everywhere in the city (again, compared to Kathmandu from where I come). In Kathmandu that’s a major problem. More so in the core city area and main marketplaces. I have faced it and I have heard from others the stories of how they sneaked into Tri-Chandra Campus or RR Campus to piddle.

I was wandering around in Chawri Bazaar, the Delhi-6 market what appeared to me as selling everything that one can imagine. It was busy, crowded, noisy, and fully animated. The sight of people (that includes only men in this case) urinating at the designated public pissoirs was very interesting. The fact that the urinal points were at the unlikeliest or unexpected places didn’t bother me at all. In fact, I was pleasantly surprised. As I walked on the busy road making sure the rickshaw didn’t hit me I strongly wanted to urinate. It was almost one of those moment when you feel like doing it right here, right now. But the funny thing is when I actually saw those places, I forget the pressure and, instead of standing on the queue, I was taking photos. The scene of people peeing publicly in such a buy market was that captivating! Then, all of a sudden, I realize this was THE place I was really looking for.

Last month, I was shopping in Lajpatnagar’s Central Market. I wasn’t feeling very well and I had drunk a lot of water before going to the market. Naturally, nature’s call started ringing. I was so much relieved just to see a convenience right at the heart of the bazaar. A few months ago, while roaming in Chandni Chowk, I faced the similar situation. I walked for a few minutes looking for toilet. I found one, in front of Jama Masjid. There’s one near Eros Cinema, in Jangpura Extension, which is not in use whenever I pass by it. So what I am trying to say is it’s not very difficult to attend nature’s call in Delhi. And the best is it’s free in many of the places.

But wait. It’s not enough for sure. Men urinating at public places with complete disregard to other people (this includes women) is a common sight in Delhi. (Kathmandu is no better.) It must be even more difficult for women, first, due to lack of toilets and second the sight.

I wanted to buy something in Chawri Bazaar the other day and the seller wanted to do something else. I was astonished when he peed right in front of another shop. He did that so quickly and ‘efficiently’ in such a busy place that my jaw dropped. He just sat and started scratching his head and looked around as if he was trying to bring down some lice from his head.

There are talks about making new toilets in the city. It has been reported in today’s newspapers that the city will have more toilets by the time it organizes commonwealth games in 2010. Most of the toilets (probably all) are constructed and maintained by Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) and some prominent Toilet personalities are pushing for the privatization of toilets. “Attracting private players to Delhi’s potential “public convenience market” may be the solution to its oozing sanitation woes, says Jack Sim — on a mission to raise international toilet standards,” writes Hindustan Times.

Jack Sim is the man who established World Toilet Organization on 19 November 2001. That explains how the World Toilet Day found it’s place on calender.

In the run-up to the Commonwealth Games, HT writes, Sim said that salvation lay in privatization. “Toilets have to catch up with the growing standards of living in India, hence the need to privatise them — fast,” he said. He said good service and innovation needed to be rewarded. “Instead of letting just civic agencies have a monopoly, the forces of demand and supply need to be ushered in,” Sim added.

There are 1,950 toilet complexes in the city run by Municipal Corporation of Delhi. 1000 new toilets to be constructed throughout Delhi: 750 for men and 250 for women.

I don’t know when Kathmandu will wake up to find conveniences in the city that makes the life of citizens a bit easier.

From WSJ Archives:

1.  (It’s all about queue)

2.  (Go to the last paragraph!)

Here are photos from Chawri Bazaar, Old Delhi, and Jangpura Extension area.