Open to Sky

January 4, 2007

Sitting over another late lunch the day we get to Baroda, I ask Puru: “Did you see one toilet in Alang or Bhavnagar?” I ask because I’m still annoyed that I had to “hold it” from 8 am the day before to 3 am this morning. Even around midnight, dismantling the three enormous spotlights that Devendra-da had purchased for the Ashram sports ground, there were men hanging around the streets of Bhavnagar. I had to wait until we got to the loading area of South Indian Transport before I could go in relative privacy, behind one of the small buildings that serve as offices for the transport companies, while all the men were either busy loading the truck or watching the loading.

Puru is surprised by the question. “Why didn’t you tell me? I could have asked at one of the khaddas (open plots that serve as warehouse and showroom for the traders of Alang – literally, “holes” in Hindi).”

“You think they have toilets at the khaddas? No chance. Did you see one?”

“There must be. These traders have tons of money – they’re lakhpattis or crorepattis (the Rupee equivalent of millionaires and billionaires).”

“No, there are none.”

“But Hemalbhai must have one. He’s not like Maheshbhai, who only cares about money. Hemalbhai is a decent man.”

“I’m sure he doesn’t have one.”

“He must. I’m going to call him right now.”

After the initial pleasantries, Puru asks the question: “Excuse me, Hemalbhai, but I just want to confirm something. Are there any toilets in Alang?”

The look on Puru’s face is priceless. “Really? Then what do men do and what do women do?”

I catch some of Puru’s side of the Hindi conversation: “OTS?” “Open to sky?” And I know I have sealed the implicit bet. And women? “There must be a bush somewhere.”

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