No ‘Ladies’ among the men here!

Now that election season is here and it is necessary to hit the roads again that dreadful feeling is beginning to rise in my guts (or should I say sink into my kidneys?) again.

No, I am not afraid of covering punishing campaign schedules — my concerns are more basic and to do with health and hygiene rather than the rough and tumble of politics. Most of our male politicians, I notice, are insensitive to and about women – they don’t think twice about it and I have had to hold my bladder for hours through the day because no one even bothers to ask if you, well, gotta go. And when you  ask, they literally show you round the corner. Which might be in the middle of a jungle or, worse, out in the open with just the odd sparse bush for cover. No thank you, is what I have then said and risked kidney failure.

There is only one politician, I have noticed, who is sensitive to this issue: Sharad Pawar. He is almost clinical while exhorting you to use his personal toilet last thing because it might be hours before you are near one again. And allows you to rush in first, just in case, after hours on the campaign trail.

At the last Assembly elections in Maharashtra in 2004, I was scheduled for a helicopter ride with Pawar across Western  Maharashtra one day. He asked me to arrive at 7am at the Fariyas Hotel in Lonavla from where his chopper would take off by 9am. I reached at the crack of dawn (5am) and waited patiently till his aides woke up and discovered me in the lobby.

Pawar’s takeoff was pushed back to noon. By then I was worried. So a half-hour before I surreptitiously slunk out of his room to find the `Ladies’ downstairs. As I wandered leisurely back, I found his aides had gone crazy looking for me.  ”Saheb has asked us to locate you pronto. You are holding him up. He will not leave unless he has spoken to you.”   

I ran back to Pawar’s room thinking there was some breaking news only to find myself turn pink as he pointed to his bathroom and said, “Please go before we take off for it will be at least six hours before we land anywhere civilised again.’’

“I have been. To the `Ladies’ in the lobby,’’ I said, a little shamefaced.

But that embarrassment was nothing compared to the one I faced on a subsequent tour with Gopinath Munde. He had no thought about how the two women in his entourage might be faring and after 12 hours (we had hit the road at 5am) when I could stand it no longer and asked to be shown to the toilet, I was shown to, well, a sugarcane field. “This is how we usually go,” his aide said at the look on my face.

No,thank you, I told him. Sent a prayer up to God to save me from a disaster and and risked another kidney stone that year. I also gave up eating sugarcane.

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