Bathrooms

American dream meets 'Hinduian' obsessions!

It all started with Saarung's arrival. When I wrote about my trials and tribulations cooking in the US many were amused with what I went through. Humor is always about other's discomfort!

Cindy was more sympathetic and hoped that the gadgets found in American homes had helped me in making my life a lot easier and wanted me to write about how I benefited from 'these aids to better living'! Cindy came to India in the sixties as an exchange student and stayed with Tara's parents. Hence, she knows India and our ways very well. Actually, even my exposure to things American was in the late sixties. However I did not encounter the kitchen first but the Bathrooms. The encounter was a cultural shock, not as dramatic as the one Cindy had when she entered our bathroom in Bangalore, but still shocking!

In Bangalore, our bathroom with its very small window was dark, as a zero watt bulb does not add too much light! I had warned her about the slippery floor and the likelihood of cockroaches climbing into the towel or her clothes placed on the wooden rack. I think I forgot to tell her about the lizards and the mice, that had made their home in the area where the firewood was stored. In any case they would have been afraid to come out in front of a stranger! Obviously there was water everywhere as we had to store it in all kinds and shapes of big vessels. We never thought it odd that the floor was never dry. In any case none would have sued us in case of an accidental fall. She knew that she had to mix the hot water from the big Kadara with tap water to get the temperature at which she enjoyed her bath. I have forgotten whether she learnt to have an oil bath and I hope she had the pleasure of sitting for a few minutes in front of the blazing fire beneath the Kadara before her bath. It is one of the best memories I have of our Bathroom.

In contrast imagine entering a typical western Bathroom for the first time, it is blindingly bright and you discover with shock that the washbasin, toilet and the bathtub are all together! Admittedly it is clean and with flowers and pictures it could easily be mistaken for a shrine! I still cannot understand how one can combine all these functions together. Even after so many years and visits I still try to shower every time I use the toilet and walk out with my eyes averted from the commode!

I still cannot reconcile myself to the fact that many trees are hacked to provide us with the toilet paper which in any case does not do the job right! I am mortally scared of the showers after they scalded me once. Each shower tap is different and is designed to confuse the user. I was glad to learn that I was not the only one when I heard Mukund say he was also wary of these showers! In addition I am nervous that the water will spillover from the tub and the floor would get wet. A mortal sin, and you can hear numerous anecdotes from early Indian settlers in US about how stupid visitors spoiled their beautiful bathrooms.

While in US, I usually try to use the Bathroom after Tara has used it when we visit together. It is always a dilemma, as I have to clean it to appear as sparkling as before, but letting her use the Bathroom later means I come to know how dirty I had made the bathroom! It is a pity as we expect to come out of a bath totally relaxed but it does get stress-full.

I suppose I will stop now as the next piece of ingenuity of the Western world the Dishwasher is a very big subject. I have discovered that the subject is of Vedic proportions and you can actually call it the American Holy cow!

(I continue with adding from my earlier rambles! As I re-read this piece I am reminded of a few more anecdotes! In my uncle's home 'Bungalow' was used in place of W.C. It seems that he was on a job that took him to very basic towns and the best and the cleanest toilets were in the government Traveller's Bungalows. And so, the family would get up early in the morning and go to the 'bungalow'. The term stayed even after they moved to Bangalore!
Many of these small towns had no sanitory system then. I discovered this when I visited the village of a classmate of mine! I remember waking up a little late and asking him where the toilet was! He asked me to follow him and he went out of the house and made an expansive gesture which covered a small lake about a few furlongs away. The problem was that all the females of the village were there washing vessels and clothes. I kept walking away from the village to find a lonely spot, there was always someone walking. Finally I gave in when the pressure overtook the feeling of embarrassment! I saw this scene repeated in a new wave movie many years later!

It was a real surprise to see that even in a place like Mysore, then the capital, the toilet was nothing but a hole in a granite slab fixed about 4 to 5 feet high from the ground. I still remember how startled and scared I was, as a kid of eight, when I heard a grunt and could see through the hole pigs busy gobbling up.)

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