Sometime in 2013, en route from Ranchi to Daltonganj
Journeys from Daltonganj, the district headquarter of the Palamau district to Ranchi, the State capital of Jharkhand, or the other way round were always full of once in a lifetime surprises. Either I would end up watching Govinda’s starrer “Partner” for the 5th consecutive time on the trip or I would meet someone who chose a newspaper business over joining the Maoists. Sometimes, there would be a government officer criticizing the ‘backward’ people of the region for its state and sometimes people would find me too fat to settle into the seat.
Some journeys are hilarious though.
One such journey made me experience the innocence in people about daily chores that people like me do not consider a very candid topic to converse about in public.
I was travelling from Ranchi back to Daltonganj. The bus stopped at a lone place just after Manika, the town in Latehar district that you cross to reach into the administrative boundary of Palamau- the district where I spent two and half years of my life and the place that offered me my first job.
The trend in this region was that women would wait patiently for the bus to stop at some place offering a ladies toilet and men would ask for the bus to be stopped in the middle of the road whenever they felt like taking a leak. In winters, this happened more often. Men would just offer to pee as per the need and all the passengers would wait for the person to get done and the bus would then move. This kind of halt generally used to last not more than two to four minutes. Long enough for the men to get done, and short enough for everyone on the bus to not freak out impatiently.
This halt just after Manika in a deserted place was getting longer than usual. It was 8.30 in the night and people started getting restless. A man had got down to get lighter. You get it, right? He had gone to execute the process that allows the residue of digested food to be excreted out of the anus- the last point of the alimentary canal of the human digestive system.
The public found out that this can’t be a case of a man out to take a leak. It has to be the second possibility. The curiosity and the wait became just sufficient for people to start speaking up.
After a few murmurs about the man who was squatting somewhere in the dark, the person who was his companion spoke up.
“Latrine kisi ko kabhi bhi lag sakta hai!” (Anyone can feel the need of shitting anytime. What is the person’s fault?)
The question in reply was beyond my wildest expectations.
“Kaise lag jayega kabhi bhi!” (How can someone feel like it, anytime?)
In came some sympathy to follow.
“Latrine kekro lag gaya to kaa kijiyega!” (If someone HAS to go, what will you do?)
However, the wait got a little too much and one frustrated passenger decided to find out the exact status of the process. He suggested a solution and volunteered to execute it himself.
“Ho gaya?? Light maar ke dekhiye to!” (Is it done? Can you put the torch light on and see? How much time do people take in shitting it out!)
What surprised me was that almost no one found it funny. Either it was understandable or something to be angry about. Something that had caused inconvenience to the public! I was the only one laughing my guts out. Probably it was the reaction of an urban bred person that does not find talking about daily chores like defecation normal. May be the western or elite culture that people like me have been taught to appreciate in our socialization since childhood does recommend too much of an emphasis on small talk like this.
The ten minute long wait finally ended. The rockstar of the night jumped back on the bus and the driver stepped on gas with full thrust. People looked at him to know the face of a person who feels like it in the middle of the forest at 8.30 pm. But no one laughed. He only got stared back at. He did not wear a sheepish look- most men in this region wore their audacity at their waist- but found it intelligent to get dumped in his seat as quickly as possible.
After facing the kind of stares he was facing, he must have prayed that his digestive system could be selectively controlled during bus journeys.
Meanwhile, Palamau ended up giving me another lesson on the variety in cultural perceptions of daily chores.