Where to Change

I stay in a little shack built in a plot in a big colony. There are two other families who stay in their own huts in the same plot. We don’t have a man in our family, it is just my mother and my sisters, the other two families have a few male members, but they are mostly out looking for odd jobs to make some money. The women in our plot work as house helps, so are mostly away in the early mornings and then the early evenings, and for the rest of the day, you will find us doing our chores at home.

Since all three families are living in makeshift houses, we obviously do not have toilets in our plot and the colony itself is a posh one, therefore there hasn’t been a need for a community toilet so there was none. As much as I dislike this habit in general, in India, men have it easy when they need to relieve themselves. I have seen the richest of men and the poorest ones too simply unzip their pants at any random corner or street and take a leak, but we women do not have that liberty. All of us have to walk a long way to the railway tracks to defecate. Also, since we live in one-room huts, we struggle to even change our clothes at home if anyone else happens to be home at that point.

As a solution, all of us girls in the plot have managed to put together a small structure and cover it on all four sides with old clothes to make a changing area for ourselves. While we were initially excited about the idea, it was only when we first used it that we realized that we have high buildings on all three sides of our hut! Every time we sit to urinate or go to change our sanitary napkins during our periods, it seems to be a fight between what we need to do against the fear and shame associated with someone seeing us do the same. What if someone takes a picture or records a video someday? We know how young girls get blackmailed.

Once, we did try to cover the top part of the structure too, but with no proper drainage system, the stench was too difficult to bear. The girls and women in my plot have trained our bodies to defecate only in the early mornings or the late evenings, when it is dark, to avoid anyone from seeing us at the railway track, but we need to change our napkins at least four times in a day, how can we do that in daylight?

However, disposing of the napkin becomes slightly easy. Since we do not live in a proper house, we do not have the municipality ragpickers come to our direction, so, we use a sack as a bin, where all three houses collect their garbage for the day and we go and empty it on the railway track nearby. I have grown up seeing the railway tracks normally used as a dumping ground, so we feel no fear while emptying our trash there.