How the author won a battle against full-bladdered men.
“Stop! Stop!” I scream in the sternest tone I can muster, as I reverse my car from our gate, trying hard to not cause a dent on the big van parked right in the way. Trying to stop someone from answering nature’s call on an empty, inviting wall is certainly no mean task.
We live on a main thoroughfare with tea shops, grocery stores, pharmacies, fast food joints, roadside eateries, randomly parked call taxis, fruit vendors, a milk booth and every other small enterprise one can think of — all doing brisk business. Therefore, there is immense potential for wall-wetting and road-stinking. I am not sure what purpose the electric meter box or whatever it is on the pavement outside our home serves, but it sure is convenient for a man with a full bladder to hide behind relieve himself.
When caught in the act, one would imagine any self-respecting human to cringe in shame. Well, most of them don’t. Some are startled and flee for their lives, half-way through the act. Some carry on with what they set out to do with remorseless nonchalance. And some simply look over their shoulder and seem visibly annoyed at this denial of their birth-right. Since the perpetrator faces the wall and never the other way, it makes my job easier. Thank God for small mercies.
My mother-in-law had an interesting tactic though. She would simply stand near our gate when one of these culprits positioned himself at the wall and stare at him. Yes, just stare... hoping to shoo him away. It worked at times, not always. Given the thick-skinned sensibility of the average male hereabouts, most would simply pretend they didn’t notice and turn the other way. Then Amma suspected she may be mistaken for a voyeur and gave up the silent protest.
Well, then we learned to live with it, walking into the house with our nostrils crinkled from the unbearable stench, hurrying into a drawing room prepared with scented candles and aromatic incense. But we did squirm in embarrassment when visitors politely enquired how we tackled this olfactory assault on a daily basis. We tried every strategy we could think of — including complaining to the Corporation, telling the cops, getting our house help to intimidate them and our driver to admonish them. Nothing worked.
Then we decided to go green. We put a fence around the pavement, kept potted plants, laid a patch of lawn, and breezed in and out of our gate with pride writ all over us. Prospective ‘urinators’ passed our green patch and sighed at the loss of space. But in our enthusiasm to water the plants, we blundered. A small wicket gate in the middle of the fence was all it took to ruin our peace once again. The plants did get wet, but not from water, if you get the drift. The usual suspects were back, happily entering through the small gate. And all the greenery provided more cover and visual appeal amidst the concrete jungle.
More shooing and admonishing from all of us, but this time, the wasteful expense and effort made it more frustrating. As if this weren’t enough, in a few weeks, an official showed up from the corporation and sought permission to dig exactly in the middle of our fenced garden to repair some major electrical fault. And in no time, we had a big fat mess of concrete, rubble, broken pots, mutilated plants and damaged fence, lending unique character to our infamous pavement. Of course, none of this deterred the wetting. They would negotiate their way through the mess and relieve themselves. After all, a little more stench wouldn’t matter to the already sad state of affairs.
Then along came a local dhobi who spread his white washed clothes all over our pavement. Win-win situation, really. He got free space to dry clothes and we got respite from our regular wall-wetters, who couldn’t obviously wet clothes too in the process. But in the dry interval between one set of clothes and the next, the men were back as if on cue.
We lost all hope and resigned ourselves to the predicament. One fine morning, we found a few autos huddled near the electric meter over which was stuck a big chart with a hand-written warning in Tamil: anyone who dares dirty the place will face the wrath of Gods! And Gods there were aplenty now. The wall in question was adorned by Gods from all religions, (just in case). They were painted so big and bright that one could not pass by without involuntarily paying obeisance in that direction. We gathered it had become an ‘auto stand’ from the numerous khaki-clad drivers hovering around their vehicles and guarding the coveted spot.
Our pavement certainly doesn’t look pretty, what with drying clothes, hanging advertisement banners, shabbily drawn gods smiling and notices scrawled in Tamil threatening trespassers with divine retribution. But the menace has stopped. No stench. No filth. It took a dhobi and a bunch of auto drivers to solve our problem.
Just as we had happily moved on with our stench-free lives, occasionally wondering where the wall-wetters had vanished, and what higher purpose the rusted box of fuses and wires served anymore, it exploded some weeks ago in an impressive ball of fire. You see, the box had apparently kept our lights on all the while, soaking the profuse irrigation for years before blowing up in flames that took half an hour to extinguish. The power outage lasted two days. It took a lot of coaxing and hours of toil before the electricity board workmen replaced the rusty old box with a shining new one that stands on our pavement now. Gods save this new one!