Toilet Training

July 5, 2017
Zara Maqbool


 By: Zara Maqbool

 Last week on my visit to Lahore I visited one of the new big fancy malls that have recently opened up. Coming from Islamabad where we get excited to see the only big mall we have, these shopping malls seemed much more grand and extravagant.

Although the brands were more or less the same, mostly local as we seem to be unable to attract foreign brands to invest in Pakistan.  We only have a few international brands that have opened up their local stores here. But what truly impressed me were the beautiful architecture and design and more importantly the management, which was perhaps more professional than many malls I have visited abroad.

The malls were clean! And that was what stood out more than anything else. The food court was well kept and no food trays were lying around.  There was ample staff to ensure the place was clean and upbeat and to assist people.

And then I had to take my toddler to the toilet, which she has to go even if she doesn’t need to. Its like she has to christen every toilet in the world. Well they were immaculately designed and maintained. But the cleaning ladies on duty had frowns on their faces and when I asked one of them she said, “I am ready to leave my job even if they pay well. People have no civic sense and they make the bathroom very dirty.” The other one then called out to a lady requesting her to make her child use the ‘flush’ and not the floor. Seeing the entire episode, the question that popped up in my mind was, “ how can we teach these basic things to each other without offending them”?

Many people who cringe at the sight of dirty toilets sometimes make the biggest mess and don’t have toilet etiquette’s. Is it because they have a lack of awareness or lack of care? Because I saw some fairly well dressed women just callously throwing used tissues on the floor or going in absolutely dry toilets and leaving a flood behind on coming out. So how can we inculcate this basic civic sense in these grand malls?

I think putting up a notice of the Dos and Don’ts can be a starting point. Along with that, appointing a person just to create awareness about toilet etiquette’s can also help. Leaving it up to the cleaning ladies only who I am sure don’t get a six-figure salary is unfair.

I also felt that someone should be there at the escalators to escort those who are using it for the first time. Watching and making fun of people who visit a mall for the first time is discriminating. Especially when there is so much staff that appointing a few more should not be an issue.

I also felt appalled by overhearing a woman say, “ Why have they allowed all kinds of people in here?”…I wonder if the class system that we have imported from the Hindu culture, more strongly embedded in the fabric of our society than we presume it to be?

Malls are an upcoming phenomenon in Pakistan, coming in far later than many other developing countries. It’s very important to send out public service messages through communication mediums to educate our masses. Putting up screens with videos guiding people on toilet etiquette’s or how to use escalators might not be a bad idea to enlighten the people.

Let such places serve more than just the confident and privileged class and lets empower those who deserve to be as excited visiting a mall as many walking on the 5th Avenue feel.