ABOUT THE BOOKWhere do you go when you just have to go?
Rahi simply loves slurping refreshing drinks, and so she always needs to pee. But boy, does she hate public loos! On her way to her aunt’s in Meghalaya, she has to pee on a train as well as stop at a hotel and even the really scary public toilet at the bus depot! And when those around her refuse to help her with her troubles, her only saviour is her Book of Important Quotes.
Travel with Rahi and read all about her yucky, icky, sticky adventures in this book about the ever-relevant worry of having a safe and clean toilet experience.
- In I Need to Pee, author Neha Singh attempts to tackle the issue of toilet hygiene. The book follows its protagonist, Rahi, travelling on a holiday to her aunt’s home in Meghalaya. On the way, she narrates her experiences of using various kinds of public washrooms, before she arrives in her aunt’s home and discovers the wonders of the dry toilet. Embedded in the narrative are messages about the need to remove the stigma around peeing, and the need to ensure the availability of safe and accessible toilets for children. There is no doubt that I Need to Pee draws attention to a crucial issue.
- Rahi as a character is not so much endearing as she is entitled. There are multiple instances when her need to pee gets other people into trouble with their superiors. These people include the guard at a hotel where she uses the toilet, a woman collecting fees outside a pay and use public toilet, and the driver of a public bus who has to pull up mid-route to allow Rahi to go. The detailing in the illustrations, as well as the situations themselves, make it clear that these are all individuals belonging to the working class, as against Rahi’s upper-middle-class location. It is unfortunate that the book prioritises her need to pee at the expense of sensitivity towards people around her.
- I Need to Pee could have been set in a more everyday context. Setting such a story in a school, for instance, would have also made it relatable to a wider range of children, while also raising the same issues about hygiene, safety, and stigma.
- It is clear that the book comes from a position of deep privilege, and is addressed at children who are products of such privilege. Holidays, “swanky” hotel toilets, and “environmentally-friendly” dry toilets are the concerns of a fairly narrow segment of society. On the other hand, many children grow up in situations where poor toilet hygiene and “peeping toms” are an everyday risk. In this context, it is rather unfortunate that a conversation about such a crucial issue has been approached from the point of view of a protagonist for whom public toilets and train loos are nothing more than a quaint adventure.