Penis Envy

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

I spent the last weekend reconnecting with my double chin in the beautiful city of Pune. Over many a toasted slice of white bread and bun slathered with butter, I grinned and fawned over every little thing. Namely, the terrible two-wheelers, who without a care in the world would drive like the Pearly Gates are shutting for the night, and mannerless cab drivers, who needed an excuse to cancel the ride. In the midst of such stunning imagery, I found myself being oh so angry at male folks. Bless their excretion organ. The world is nothing but a large toilet for all the men folk.

Years ago, I had a meeting scheduled with one of my professors to discuss a photography assignment I was due to present later that month. Each of us had to pitch an idea and I went ahead with this photo story, of how men can take a piss in public. The idea, ofcourse, was to see this culture proliferated across caste, background, colour- nearly everything- a unifying factor for menfolk. The idea that unites the gender- take a piss anywhere.

In a total anti-climax, the professor shot the idea down. He claimed this was a normal phenomenon across the world and wasn't specific to 'Delhi' and 'India'.

Well, nobody had said it had to be India/Delhi specific.

"You're into music and gig photography. Why don't you cover the jazz fest? Besides, men across the world do that. You know, in Europe- Germany, London, everywhere. It's not unique.", he had said, as though in response to me having accused him of doing something totally unacceptable, say snorting coke off a Japanese prostitute's navel.

Years later, (to be precise, yesterday) I was reading Mia Khalifa's book- Special Lassi. She spins the most beautiful words together to describe her backbreaking misadventures across the Himalayas. I don't easily endorse things, but when I do, I go all out. Her book is all kinds of wonderful- complete with astute observations about the things around us- especially in India- which we take for granted. One of them, as she lists, is the ability of men to take a piss anywhere they want. That marked a befitting end to my trip. As I was trapped in a godforsaken city with little to no public urinals access to women, it seemed Mia Khalifa's words were mine.

Through the course of the bastard trip, my host and I would exit the house in the morning, only to return in the wee hours of next morning- absolutely constipated. With sharing a washroom between us two, the details were exchanged and intimately so.

"Are you constipated as well? Shit man. I've not crapped in a day and a half."

"I wanted to take a dump but I can't in public toilets."

"Wait, there's no health faucet?"

"No man, you have to use the mug and water."

"Shit. Shit."

"I can't take a dump with full satisfaction. You know what I mean? It's like I've done it but I'm not satisfied."

"Dude, I'm eating too many carbs for me to be able to take a satisfying dump. If I don't, I'll want to shit at the drop of the hat."

"Yeah don't, there's no place where you can."

These were some of the stray sentences exchanged repeatedly over the weekend. The issue with us both? Privileged, women of colour on a vacation not being able to pee/poop as they pleased.

Which essentially made me look inwards and realised, we still have it easy. We can always come back to our respective place, comfortable spot to take a satisfying dump or a piss. Whereas, for a significant number of people, this privilege can never be realized or attained simply because they don't have the means of affording it.

Which makes me go back to question, what is it about this being so 'global'? Do women globally suffer from UTIs or whatever it is, constipation, because they do not have means to provide them with sanitation and hygiene? Or does it have to be only us where, after over seventy years of the country's independence we are still battling eyelids on who ate what part of cow meat or goat meat and how dare a musical outfit call themselves "Bhangi jumping"?

I guess, I'll never know. At the end of the day, if not a jazz fest, I'll be asked to shoot or commission something equally banal and distracting and I'll go back home, holding my piss and poop to only relieve myself eight hours after a day's work.

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