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Toilet apps in pressure test

Five toilet-finder apps that claim to help you locate a loo in Mumbai. Which ones passed our pressure test?

When put to the public loo test, Barcelona isn’t any better than Mumbai, says Laila Vaziralli, 30, artist and arts festival organiser. “There are so many tourists in Spain that cafés don't let you walk in to use the loo.

I felt like an overfull bathtub looking for a place to go,” she recalls about a trip there. She knows that in Mumbai too, finding an accessible toilet for women is similar to encountering a frog prince.

Arts festival organiser Laila Vaziralli was sceptical about finding a toilet she could use in and around Lamington Road, until she used a recently launched toilet-locator app. Pics/Sayed Sameer Abedi
Arts festival organiser Laila Vaziralli was sceptical about finding a toilet she could use in and around Lamington Road, until she used a recently launched toilet-locator app. Pics/Sayed Sameer Abedi

To address the lacuna, a bunch of developers have created apps that claim to save the ladies from UTI. Vaziralli put five to the test across five locations in four hours.

At Lamington Road
Using: GottaGo (Android)
Lamington Road is a neighbourhood of gadgets, and men selling gadgets. “It’s just electronics shops everywhere. On another day, I’d just hold it, really,” she says tapping GottaGo on her smartphone. It geolocates seven options, including restaurants, hotels and a railway station. Vaziralli heads to Golden Chimney Restaurant and Bar, four minutes away. It’s not open yet, but the staff allow her to use the loo, which she testifies is “sparkling clean”.


At Chor Bazaar

Using: Flush (Android and iOS)
Friday market is raging at Chor Bazaar, and Vaziralli chooses to try Flush, which promises to be “the quickest, simplest way of finding a public bathroom or restroom.” Unfortunately, it throws up three options, the nearest being a public bathroom near Vidhan Bhavan, Nariman Point, 3.4 kms away.

Tapping into local wisdom, she checks with chai-sipping shopkeepers, who point to a loo under a tree 10 metres away. Clean Shauchalay sees men adjusting their zips and taking over the women’s section, too. Instead, Vaziralli chooses to head to Shalimar Restaurant, where a kind cashier allows her in.


At Colaba Market

Using: Use Refuse (Android)
Four months back, Vaziralli had a nightmarish experience when roaming this area trying to scour finds for a flea market she was co-organising. Her only options — Taj Mahal Palace, Westside and Jehangir Art Gallery — all 20 minutes away. This time, PeeBuddy’s app, Use Refuse, helps her find three more options, but GottaGo reigns by offering three times that number. She chooses to go to Fariyas Hotel, where a receptionist lets her in. But Vaziralli wonders if a class-divide controls toilet accessibility. “Wouldn’t it be great if upmarket establishments allowed working women, like say, my house help, to access loos too?”


At Dadar (W) Station

Using: Mutralaya (Android)
At the bustling railway junction, Vaziralli puts to use Mutralaya, which shows three restaurants a long walk away but ignores the loo in a mall a couple of minutes away. A strong stench and locals help her find her way to a public loo that is dimly lit. Repairs are on in the ladies’ section. “There is no way I can use it,” she says.


At Dharavi

Using: Swachh Bharat Toilet Locator (Android)
Vaziralli tries the Swachh Bharat Toilet Locator app, in beta testing stage, at 90 Feet Road. The app loads a world map, asking her to locate her current position, before it hangs. But Vaziralli, who has previously worked on a community arts initiative in Dharavi, says, “If it’s hard for locals to find a toilet here, we don’t have a hope in hell.” A chemist at a clinic clucks his tongue in resignation, but Mutralaya shows Sion Hospital, a kilometer away, as a possible restroom spot.

Final say: GottaGo was most reliable, but it’s evident that apps are making up for unavailability of public facilities by pointing to cafés. The problem is with the case of absent loos, not missing app data.

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