Thursday, March 11, 2010

Take a wash on the wild sud... (SO sorry, Lou Reed)

Meera Syal poked fun at this very Indian habit in her book Anita and Me, but for the life of me I couldn’t understand why, when I read her book a few years ago. I’m talking about the way Indians do their washing up, under running water. I say Indian, but of course there’s every chance that folks from the rest of the Indian sub-continent have this habit as well.

It’s a very British thing (or is it generally a Western thing?) to stop up the sink, fill it with hot soapy water, dunk all the dirty cups/mugs/plates/whatever in and scrub them, then rinse them in the same water and leave ‘em out on the drainer, soapy suds and all, finally to wipe them dry.

But as someone who was born and brought up very very Indian, and South Indian Brahmin Iyer at that, I cannot - simply cannot - come to terms with that method of washing up. I have to wash my dishes under hot running water and, much more importantly, rinse every last sud to extinction.

Okay, hot running water is a luxury I’ve known only in the last decade or so. It certainly was not something I was ever used to in my former avatar as an Indian in Madras – well, perhaps other than when the water in the overhead tank got very, very hot in the summer sun. Hell, just getting running water was a luxury. But rinsing all the suds off, no matter how scarce the water, was always a must-do.

Anyway, in times of water shortage, we would scrub all the dirty vessels with a small wad of brown coconut fibre (the pointy end bit off a coconut, usually) dipped in a dish which contained the soggy slivers of washing soaps past all normal use. Once all the dishes were scrubbed, someone would pour water from a mug in a slow, thin stream while the washer-upper rinsed all the vessels clean. (A dirty hand or soapy utensil would NEVER be dipped in the clean water which had been caught and stored in covered buckets.) We had to be careful about conserving water then - none of this nonsense about leaving the tap running all the time, something I’m still instinctively loath to do in the UK. I also hate dripping taps – there’s nothing better calculated to rouse me from a deep sleep than the sound of water dripping from a slightly open tap.

And while we’re on the subject of water and washing up, I feel the same about baths vs showers. Although the idea of a bubble bath is nice (and I’ve had those – bubble baths, I mean - a few times), once the water cools, basically you end up sitting in a tubful of soapy dirty water, right? How anybody brings themselves to just towel off thereafter beats me. I just don’t feel clean until I’ve had a shower and rinsed off all the soapy water from my skin. So, every time I have a bath, I also have to have a shower afterwards. Doubly wasted water. Therefore, despite being a fairly newly minted British citizen, I've decided to go with the European flow, as it were, on this one. Showers yay, baths nay (or showers yea, baths nea – your choice. English is SUCH a strange language...)

What I was getting at, basically, with the whole non-rinsing of the suds from dishes and person alike, is – surely the chemicals in the soap can’t be good for you, whether internal (ingested from dry-but-residue-laden plates or mugs, etc) or external (left on your skin)?

(Yes, a case could be made for all lab-devised, man-made, chemical-laden soaps, shampoos, kitchen cleaning sprays etc being bad for living things, human and otherwise, but that’s a whole different issue not going to be touched upon in this post. That is to say, not any more than in this para.)

Thursday, March 04, 2010

In which I get to do yet another post on books and reading

I've often written on my blog about how much I love books and reading, and anybody who knows me well enough (or reads - and remembers - my blog-posts) will know that I read all the time, everywhere, and have at least one book that I'm currently reading in every room that I might conceivably have to be at any given point.

Now don't get the idea that I live in a 20-bedroom mansion, because I don't. But that still means that I have a minimum of 5 books on on the go. For you curious ones, that's one each in the living room, "office", bedroom, dressing room and kitchen. No, that should be 6, really, because I also have one balanced (usually open) on the banister in the landing. I'd have one in the toilet/bathroom too, but I don't. Not because of any bacteria or general "ewww, the bathroom" anxieties, but because there's no extra shelf space in there. So the banister book (or whichever I have in hand currently) does double duty as bathroom book when required. I don't think I could cope with living in a 20-room mansion.

Anyway, I came across an interesting article in The Guardian, and I understood TOTALLY what Bibi van der Zee was writing about, for the most part. For the most part, because I don't have children. But if I did, that's exactly how I'd be too, and possibly exhibiting a lot less patience.

There was one major thing with which I couldn't identify, though. (I was going to write "which i couldn't identify with" - but bloody Winston Churchill's preposition "rule" popped up in my brain waving a red flag! For all I know, the rule doesn't hold good any more, but still... sad or what? No answers reqd.)

Anyway, the thing I couldn't identify with with which I couldn't identify was what Bibi did so that she could get a newspaper article out of it -
give up books and reading for a whole week!

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Allah shower the man with blessings

THIS is the sort of ruling I want to see lots and lots more of! (Sorry Sir Winston, this sentence is too excited not to end in a preposition. Just so you know.)

Hopefully Dr Muhammad Tahir-ul-Quadri will live long and prosper.