In India, many women on road trips find the fun element taken away due to a lack of well-maintained, hygienic restrooms along the way.
When Diptendu Roy was travelling with his wife Sunita Chakraborty on the highway in the southern parts of Chhattisgarh, the couple faced the same issue.
“For kilometres on end, there was no restroom facility available. I was still able to stop by the roadside and go behind trees, but Sunita faced immense difficulty,” he says.
This encouraged him to make clean public restrooms accessible to women travellers along India’s highways. So, the journalist quit his job and launched Eloo.
In 2018, he presented the idea to the Chhattisgarh Government and enrolled in a fellowship programme sponsored by the state government.
The startup used old decommissioned buses to set up functional restrooms in Santiniketan, and the next few are being built along the highway in Chhattisgarh.
The restroom in Santiniketan has three washrooms for women, one gender-neutral washroom, a bathing area, and a changing room, which also doubles as a breastfeeding area.
He says, “These restrooms are unique because we are using these old buses to create them, which also means that our set-up costs are significantly cheaper.”
They are managed by women’s self-help group members. The front portion of the restrooms is used as a pantry to sell refreshments to boost their income.
However, this project posed challenges for Diptendu. At times, his relatives would ridicule his choice of leaving a lucrative job to construct public restrooms.
But he says these comments and jibes only made his conviction stronger. “No job is too low for one to do. This is my small contribution in making women travellers, especially on the highway, comfortable,” he says.