In the western world we’re continually presented with information about how much water we should drink every day – 2 litres, 3 litres, 8 glasses, a complicated calculation involving your height, weight, age and activity level… there’s plenty of advice out there.
Being more active than usual in a hot country you’d think this would be especially important. It is, but it’s also impossible.
It’s not due to a distaste for public toilets. I’m pretty much immune to them now. I’m prepared to hold my breath and hunker down over the filthiest holes-in-the-ground the world has to offer, and I’ve seen some pretty disgusting ones.
The problem is the lack of toilets altogether. A few days ago we were out temple-hopping from 9am until 1pm and there was not a toilet in sight. Not a problem for Indian men – every day I see many of them pissing and shitting right at the side of the road, without a care in the world. I generally support the notion of “when in Rome…” but that’s taking it a bit too far.
The solution is to reduce our need to relieve ourselves when we’re in these situations. Having a pounding headache isn’t good either so it’s quite a skill to find a level of water consumption that brings us just above dehydration but no further.
It’s not ideal but better than the alternative – having a throbbing bladder and nowhere to empty it. It’s even worse for Indian women. Recently it was World Toilet Day and I discovered that half of Indian homes don’t have a toilet.
Outdoor relief isn’t possible for women during the day. If you can’t expose your ankles you sure as hell can’t pee by the roadside, and it also leaves them vulnerable to sexual assault and even murder.
Because of this, women have been developing all sorts of horrible medical problems from holding it in all day until they can relieve themselves at night, in groups for safety.
This issue even inspired a popular Indian movie this year – Toilet, a Love Story.
As tourists we can make up for not being well hydrated on days when we know we will be near a toilet – relaxing at our accommodation or visiting attractions where there are likely to be facilities. It’s something we never think about at home. Always being a short distance away from a toilet is definitely a luxury we take for granted.