How do South Delhi restaurants feel about letting women use their washrooms?
One of the hard things about being a woman in India is the lack of good public washrooms. For the men, the whole world is a toilet; for the women, it means being careful about drinking water. Therefore, the latest directive by the South Delhi Municipal Corporation, starting May 1, 2017, is a reason for cheer. Now, women and children get free access to washrooms in all South Delhi restaurants.
Women in the city are happy that the order has come, because now they won’t have to face the embarrassment of being refused the use of a washroom when in need. Prerna Arora, 29, placement coordinator at an educational institute, says, “A few days ago, while shopping in Lajpat Nagar, I went to a restaurant and requested to use their washroom. They refused, saying I couldn’t unless I ordered something from there. I didn’t argue and simply went to another place. With this directive, I want to go there again and see how they stop me.”
Swati Kapoor, 37, a homemaker in Lajpat Nagar, says, “It’s difficult [for some]to climb up to a higher floor, and most of the restaurants in Lajpat Nagar market have their washrooms on a higher floor, so the people in general can’t go. Even if [washrooms] are on the ground floor, they give a nasty stare if I say that I’m here to just use the washroom. Today, when I went to a restaurant to use their washroom, I wasn’t aware of the new rule, but the waiters didn’t stop me. So I think there’s a change in the mentality.”
Valentina Huidrom, 37, a travel consultant and a resident of Dwarka, West Delhi, wants to see this directive applied to the entire city. “I’m seven months pregnant. I need to use the washroom very often,” she says. “Not that anyone stops me from using their facility, since my bump is quite evident, but going to a restaurant just for this, without buying anything, makes me feel guilty.” She adds that the “washrooms outside, such as a petrol pumps, are horrible!”
Restaurant managers and owners are not sure yet how this would go. Besides, they feel that public conveniences should be a lot better. Vipul Gupta, owner, Café Yell, Defence Colony, says, “On the face of it, [the new rule] doesn’t look inconvenient. But why can’t they improve the standards of public washrooms, too?”
There is a concern that the extra water and cleaning costs could become steep over a long period. “I allow [washroom use] on moral grounds, but for smaller establishments that don’t have so much business, it’s a little unfair to expect them to bear the cost,” says Sumit Goyal from Gastronomica, M Block Market, Greater Kailash I, adding that this could also be a challenge for an establishment’s entry rules. “Not all high-end places allow entry to everyone, but after this rule, on the pretext of using the washroom, a guest could demand entry,” he says.