Thursday, April 3, 2014

The Land with Days Dedicated to Bathing

I have had my close encounters with the smelly kind … very close encounters for my comfort. I come from a family where people would go hungry but not without a bath, particularly my elder sister and my dad.
No matter what happened, their priority remained having a bath for the day. Even when my sister was very sick with fever, or in her last stage of cancer, she never skipped having her daily bath. If by some chance she had to miss her bath for a day, than it was better to keep away from her; because she would be the grumpiest person you can come across. My dad and my sister had their timings fixed for bath and no one were supposed be in the bathroom at that time. We loved them both, so we put up with them.
Then I met my would-be husband. Now do not jump to conclusion that he is the smelly kind I am going to talk about. He was very similar to my sister; the only difference is he never began his day without having bath first thing in the morning, whereas my sister loved to have her bath sometime in the afternoon after dusting our whole house. Yeah, she religiously dusted the tape recorder, radio, TV, doors, windows and everything around our home ‘EVERY DAY’. If for some reason my husband could not have his bath, he would sit around at home sulking without doing anything. Naturally, I assumed that from the land where he came from, people began their day by having bath. I got married and went to his homeland which was just 400 km away from the where I lived. Who would imagine that at this short distance I would get the cultural shock of my life?
In Byndoor, there were no geysers or water heaters in homes back in 1990s. Instead they had huge pots in the bathroom, in which they heated the water for bath. Almost every home had coconut trees and the byproducts went into heating water besides the wood brought from nearby forest. The whole procedure took a lot more effort than hitting the button and heating water for a relaxing hot water bath. So the people there dedicated two days in a week for having bath. One was Friday and the other was Monday. On these two days, they would fill the huge pot with water and make fire. All the people in the house would have their bath on these two days. For some reason, they never had body baths. Everyone around me bathed with the red Lifebuoy soap and only that soap. It was also used to wash their hair, since no one were used to shampooing their hair. Most of the people shared the soap and towel in the family. I am talking only about my surrounding and not everyone in the town. 

Now here comes the biggest shock for you all. If someone missed having bath on Monday, they usually waited until Friday for their bath. In all these days in between they wore the same set of clothes. They did not wear night dress or change clothes when going to bed. Can you imagine women going to bed in the sari and waking up in it for next day for 3-4 days? Men at least had two sets of dress. One set was reserved for wearing at home and one for going out.
I was thrown into this scenario when I did not even know how to make fire to heat the water. Thank God, the climate of the place was so hot, that I did not need hot water for baths. In fact, I used to bath in cold water whenever I felt sweaty or itchy and that was about 3-4 times a day. I would hear the women whisper among them, give nasty stares and at times giggle as I went to have my bath. I wondered what was wrong with them, but just went about my own way. Finally, I got to know from a secret source that the women had their bath other than on Fridays or Mondays was - when they had sex. It was a cleansing bath required before they offered their prayers. So, all the giggles, looks and whispers were directed towards their assumption that I was doing the same. OMG! The well wisher wanted me to take my new married life a bit easy so she revealed the secret in the process of convincing me not to overdo the sex thing.
Panic stricken, I ran to my husband and told him to get the matter cleared that I was bathing only for bathing sake, and not for what they were assuming it to be. He looked at me aghast and asked, “What do you want me to say?” The poor man was confused and no wonder he was. Even I had no clue how he could do that, I mean go out and tell all the women that his wife was having bath just like that and not as they assumed it to be. The matter was dropped; yet I kept throwing accusing looks at him. But, I was not sure what I was accusing him of.
The next time I wanted to have bath, I announced loudly to my husband, “It is so hot in this place that I feel itchy and sweaty all over. I need a bath to feel better”. I looked around to see if the message had been passed, but they all acted or were really dumb. I started feeling so conscious when walking in for a bath or walking out of the bathroom. I would feel as though all the eyes were peering at me.

Giving up bathing would have killed me for sure, because the weather in Bangalore (where I grew up) is so pleasant in comparison to Byndoor.  I started sneaking into the bathroom when no were around for my baths. Fortunately, the ordeal ended for me when we went back to Bangalore to spend some time with my parents. The relief was welcome even if it was temporary.  
It was time for my husband to go back to Dubai for work and we went back to Byndoor. The whole ordeal started all over again for me. Then came the D-day when my husband, reluctantly left me behind and went away to work in gulf for at least a few months before he could come back. The next day when they found me walking out of the bathroom after a cool relaxing bath, they shot questioning look my way. OMG! I needed to address this issue now. I told them that I did not grow up dedicating days for bathing. I knew there were days dedicated to certain festivities and national holidays etc, but never did I know about days dedicated for bathing. I loved to keep the sweaty and itchy feeling away from me, especially when I hit bed at night. I did not like to smell awful.  I could hear them murmuring after I left, “She is trying to mislead us by continuing to have her baths”. Sigh! I gave up trying to explain them anything.
They did not change their routine for years. Monday and Friday remained the days when they would have their bath with the Red Lifebuoy soap. They still heat the water in the big pot, which I learned to do later in my life. Two years ago, when I left Byndoor to come and settle down in Bangalore, I had my final cold water bath as we are yet to install a water heater there. Now I have the instant water heater at my service here.
The younger generation has been changing the trend of bathing on Fridays and Mondays. The modern homes have come up with attached bathrooms and water heaters for that instant relaxing bath. But people who do not like the change have been sticking to the old rules.
NOoooo....Not that smell again
 I dread sitting near them or getting too close to them on Sundays and Thursdays. I think you can guess why. The simple involuntary process of inhaling air becomes a torture for me because no matter how much smelly they get, they are supposed to reborn with hot water only on Monday or Friday, even in sweltering summer.
So on a Sunday or Thursday, I don't have to ask, "What's That Smell, Boss?" because it is so obvious.

This post is a part of contest on Indiblogger - Close Encounters of the Smelly Kind by Racold Water Heaters. 

10 comments:

  1. That made a real interesting read.

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    1. But it was an horrible experience for me TF. Now I can laugh about it, but back then it was kind of irritating and uncomfortable for me.

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  2. Fun read, good luck for the contest.

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    1. It was not fun smelling them out though! I can assure you that.

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  3. Due to water scarcity or other reasons, people often do not have bath everyday. I don't think it is a crime to save water. Give a serious thought whether we need to waste water by having bath more often than needed.

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    1. First let me tell you that I agree with you and respect your views. We need people like you to maintain ecological balance on our earth. Now in my defense- We did not have running water there. The water had to be drawn from the well. I could not waste water much because I had tough time drawing water because I was not used to it. I just took enough for feeling better. Also, the water from washing clothes, dishes or bathing is not wasted there. It goes to feed the coconut or any other trees growing in the backyard. Hence feeling less guilty of those baths.

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  4. Very candid true-life story shared with such frankness, Faridaji.
    Bathing is so important, yet people associate it with different things! Bathing for bathing sake! :)
    Best wishes :)

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    1. Thank you Anita. Bathing has so many traditions and cultures attached to it in our land... So funny!

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  5. Very strange, bathing just twice or thrice that too by choice. Good for you that your husband was different from them. A new kind of experience but a great read.
    Many thanks for the lovely comment at my blog Farida.

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  6. That's a strange tradition they follow there. One would think, they must need to take bath more than once a day since it is so hot there.

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