Last week we had a house guest.
And she asked me, “ okay, so is there anything I should know about Bombay before I go out. Like what places to avoid, what streets not to walk on in broad daylight.” That sort of thing. Just what a white girl living in Delhi, and getting her ass grabbed at least twice a day would ask.
So I though and thought. And then gave her my standard advice.
“ No, it’s actually pretty cool. Though there is one thing you should always remember in Mumbai. Pee before you leave home. Or if you’re in a restaurant, mall, coffee shop, make use of the facilities.”
She just smiled at me vaguely. Probably thought weirdo with a weak bladder.
But it’s true. If you move to Mumbai that’s the first thing you learn. I of course learnt it the hard way. The first time I was leaving work, and I felt just a little pee-ey. But then I thought home is just twenty minutes away, and if I go back to the loo, I’ll probably get caught for some work, so forget it...
Ha ha. I’ll never forget that evening. We got caught in a huge traffic jam, one truck had broken down, half a dozen traffic lights had stopped working, and it felt like everyone had left work at that very moment. Nothing moved, except my bladder which was painfully expanding by the minute.
I crossed my legs, leaned forward, gritted my teeth, tried to distract myself with thoughts of Anthony Bourdain. But no, nothing helped. The traffic would not move, there was not a single restaurant or coffee shop on that damn stretch, and soon I had tears in my eyes. A tried holding my hand, and singing a song, but nothing was helping. Only the thought of the grumpy Bihari cabbie going ballistic kept me from peeing in the cab.
Anyway, I finally made it to a Sulabh Sauchalaya that evening. And I swore to myself that it would never happen again.
But of course it did. A couple of times. The worst being when I was driving, and it was raining. Again on that same darned stretch of road. This time it got so bad, what with the persistent sound of rain on my roof and rivers running down my windscreen, that I removed my tiffin box from the plastic packet I usually carry it in. The idea was to slip the plastic packet into my jeans and pee in to it. But again, a packed double decker bus next to me, and tight jeans foiled that plan. I finally made it to the same Sulabh Sauchalaya, all teary eyed again.
Which reminds me, when I lived in Delhi, we used to pass this huge house in Vasant Vihar. And someone once told me it belongs to the guy who started the Sulabh Sauchalayas. We always looked at it enviously.
But not anymore. Now when I go to Delhi, I’ll look at it with fondness. After all, it’s been built on my pee.