The Queen Of Hygiene
A rhythmic sound of a piece of cloth repeatedly beaten on the hard floor with occasional squeezing off the water was heard from the bath room. Perhaps somebody was on the job of washing clothes. There is nothing odd about it except a modern automatic washing machine was visible right at the entrance of the room. On a closer examination, you could get a glimpse of an aged lady who looked around 50 to 55 years though her actual biological age was past 63.
A further scrutiny revealed that she was perched on a short stool and was panting for oxygen in between the gaps. Anybody could infer that this was not the normal exhaustion caused by fatigue and the hard task she was performing, but due to the illness of asthma that she was suffering from. What made her not to avail the new washing machine that was recently presented by one of her daughters on her birth day? The answer was very simple. The highly hygiene-conscious lady was not satisfied with the machine’s performance and hence, she preferred the traditional way of cleaning for certain clothes of her own.
At last when she gets up for drying the clothes you get a full view of the lady with a slight stoop at the back which she acquired only recently due to the bout of anguish that she suffered from consequently due to the loss of her only son who was defending the honor of our mother land. Her frequent hospitalization coupled with medication had drained her of her inbuilt energy. But she is still retaining the majority of her charming face that once reminded of the film actress of the 60s – Nirupa Roy with the round face and well chiseled cheek bone and sharp chin. Once upon a time when she was healthier, the slight flesh under her sparkling eyes gave the illusion of a perpetual smile. Even now her hair is moderately thick and more than 80% of it is still black. It is anybody’s guess to what extent her appearance would enhance with all the modern cosmetics which is being used even by the ladies in their 70s. But she is the last one to compromise with regards to her personal cleanliness and the cleanliness of her surroundings.
Normally, the term HYGIENE starts with personal cleanliness like – brushing teeth twice and bathing, cutting nails, washing hands with detergents after using toilet, washing the hair with shampoo, always using washed cloth etc. But this lady had gone beyond personal tidiness and expanded her principles to the surroundings and also to the house and people of concern. Actually this trait is the virtue of Indians and more correctly by south Indian Brahmins. When foreigners visit India, they are amused by the fact that Indians have reserved the right hand 100% for eating food only and the other hand for washing at the time of toilets and other dirty things. Even while taking hot drinks, they believe in pouring from a height to the mouth rather than sipping. When we are someone’s guests, this practice is followed religiously as we may otherwise stand the risk of aversion by their body language. Though it is a challenging task to drink coffee or tea from a cup in this manner, many fools attempt it at the risk of spoiling their clothes and becoming victims of joke.
Coming back to our lady, it is amazing to know about her other habits and her way of running the house with the single purpose of maintaining things free from dust and bacteria at all levels. At the time of taking dinner or lunch, all the dishes are brought carefully without touching the edibles in any way. Once you start taking food from your plate it has become Echchil and nobody else other than you is expected to take from that plate and no helping is allowed from any other plate to yours. It is on the belief that your saliva of the mouth cannot be contaminated with others – ruling out all possibilities while using spoons, dishes, plates, tumblers and so on. After eating, you have to first do the preliminary washing at the wash basin well outside the kitchen before bringing them back to the kitchen. Here the kitchen also comprises of Puja corner and the reason for following the above procedure becomes more valid.
For the real outsiders, a separate set of utensils are used with extra care to wash them – preferably with hot water. Of late, due to her sickness, the job of sweeping and wiping the floors of the house and also the utensils was passed on to her hubby who was not at all good in this department. Actually, he never put his soul and heart in these jobs and the degree of perfection was much below the expectations of his wife. He has been trying his best to improve the quality of the cleaning and washing job, though it is at a snail’s pace. He is aware that his wife is watching with her eagle eye and many a time she would do the job again and sweep more dusts. Some times he used to think of collecting some ready made dust and waste to prove that he had also gathered good rubbish! Many times, she used to show to her husband a milk boiling vessel or a rice cooker that was not properly washed much to his embarrassment. But she was at all times doing some minor cleaning like rubbing the mirror, photos, show cases etc. in the house. She had even purchased all types of cleaning agents like detergents, phenol, kerosene, vim powder, and acid & so on.
There are different types of broom sticks, cleaning clothes that are specifically used for different jobs. The toilet cleaning is a well organized premeditated job. The hubby will be disrobed to his minimum clothing and enter his toilet only to return to his bath without touching or entering anywhere. Various types of cleaning agents are used for a change or perfection. He has no business to enter and clean her toilet for which she has declared it as her exclusive right. On the days when the hubby chooses to cut his few hair still surviving he has to observe a strict decorum of entering the bath room straight and never should avail his outing for hair cut for shopping of any kind. His towel will be stealthily passed through the gap of the door during his bathing. Lots of reminders used to come from outside for the liberal deployment of shampoo. He used to wonder about the purpose of throwing down all the shampoo on his shining skull and many a time he would use them for his body which is in abundance of that material which was lacking on his hard skull! The curtains, bed sheets, pillow covers and any other bigger and tougher clothes are washed at least once in a week in the washing machine with the regularity that is not followed even in hospitals and hotels.
The ritual of cleaning the 5 ceiling fans and 1 table fan is long and elaborate and personally indulged in by the lady of the house only ably assisted as a helper by the poor hubby. A stool over a chair is put for to reach the fan by the 5 feet tall lady when the 5 feet 8 inches tall hubby will play a second fiddle. It is remarkable that she maintains her balance and confidence not entirely due to her sturdy legs which have however gone down many shades below from its original appearance decades back. There will be an arrangement of two to three types of liquids in equal number of mugs for different stages of cleaning with different types of clothes, sponges etc. The blades and the domes are repeatedly rubbed with dry clothes, wet clothes of soap, kerosene and again a dry cloth.
Some times the poor hubby used to be engrossed in the newspaper during the morning hours when all of a sudden he would notice that both his feet are at the mercy of his wife to massage with oil for removing its dry look. Some times she used to express her itching to snatch some poor hutment child and thoroughly clean him/her in all respects. It is but natural that this lady is having aversion to bad smell of any type and will research it out for its origin and the object that was radiating it.
In the decades of life, they have located lots of dead rats, lizards, rotten materials etc. She is highly conscious about drinking water and its purity. But it is the strangest of things that this lady has no aversion to taking PUCHKA prepared by Bihari with the questionable quality of tamarind water and also the servings from their bare hands! It only proves even the greatest in their respective fields are having the curse of weakness much against the principle they follow. It could be even Sankaracharya, Lord Ram, Lord Krishna or Jawaharlal Nehru or even Mahatma Gandhi. Their virtues are bound to remain intact in spite of their misdeeds and so also for this interesting lady! LONG LIVE THE QUEEN and also the ‘king’
N.B.—a tribute by her husband.
Contributed By: J. PANCHAPAGESAN DSP-RETD, CHENNAI
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