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Blue with a tinge of yellow

Literature 2024-05-27, 12:27am


Sudhirendar Sharma

Sudhirendar Sharma

With mercury touching a searing high, swimming pools are back in business. Who would not love to be in blue waters at this time? Barring early afternoons, cooling off in the pool anytime during the day is a bliss, be it in fancy star hotels or pocket-friendly neighborhood pools. But swimmers often wonder if swimming in other people’s pee in the pool is worth the risk. Curiously, no one has ever claimed not to have emptied one's bladder in a pool. After all, when you gotta go, you gotta go! 

The best option is to feign ignorance, counting it as a hidden price for a big comfort. After all, pee is over 95 percent water, and the remainder gets diluted to have any serious effect. Celebrated writer Khushwant Singh found pee silent in swimming pools (as p in psychology) where its diluted presence is silently ensured. A 2012 study published in the International Journal of Aquatic Research and Education had reported that about 19 per cent of people admitted to having peed in a pool. Clearly, an underestimation but good for us. 


Blue with a tinge of yellow

To pee or not to pee in a pool is subjective, only the bladder can take the final call. Pee may not be as bad as we might think, however. A British naturopath John W. Armstrong had cured himself by treating 'on nothing but urine and tap water' for 45 days. In urine, he had discovered a system of alternate medicine that his family had long been practicing for treating minor stings and cuts, and which even the Bible prescribed: 'drink waters out of thine own cistern and running waters out of thine own well'. 

In his hugely popular book 'The Water of Life', published in 1944, Armstrong had literally advised his readers not to be pissed off, but instead cajoled them tu pee aur jee - drink and live longer. It gained credence with politicians and celebrities, as much with ordinary souls. While former Indian Prime Minister Morarji Desai added a political tinge to his own perfect medicine, the British actress Sarah Miles immunized herself against allergies for being on her own urine dose for over thirty years.

Having tasted thine own waters, Desai even went to the extent of suggesting pee to be the perfect medical solution for the millions of countrymen who could not afford medical treatment. Not without reason as Shivambu Kalpa, a treatise on the pharmaceutical value of urine, propounds it as an acceptable practice across several societies. Ancient Chinese documents describe benefits of drinking one’s own urine, and people in Africa and the Americas have long used urine for various medical conditions.    

Its medicinal value withstanding, the creative aspect of pee has been explored in Bollywood blockbuster '3 Idiots' where pee only helps to hydrate the screenplay. The very idea of innovation in the script is pitched around this universal saline excretion, which is a good conductor of electricity. Pee is so creatively woven into the script that for once the Hindi-challenged character of Chatur Ramalingam's struggle to find a place for mutra visarjan (urination) through the 180-minute entertainer lands him in real trouble. 

All considered, I have renewed my swimming pool membership.

(Dr. Sudhirendar Sharma is a writer and researcher specializing in Development issues. He is based in New Delhi, India)

First published in Outlook on May 26, 2024