The Bad Indian Wife is home alone, and so it is interesting to explore, what can I complain about now he is several thousand miles from here?
To be honest, I am not the clean freak that some would have down as – left to my solitude and the terrace really does not need sweeping twice a day, and the dishes can remain in the sink until later. I get that.
I am a long-timer here visiting India, over twenty years, and am always dazzled by the impeccable unspoken code of cleanliness, that makes quite honestly, us Europeans, pretty grizzly in our daily hygiene. I remember years ago, watching a slender, nimble man, stripped down to his underpants, crouching under a fire hydrant at the roadside and washing himself. Extremely thoroughly, with soap. The religious and social laws and customs dictates that it has to be this way and people of impoverished means, uphold these norms with the same fervor as high caste religious priests and Brahminic families.
The filtered water is delivered on Saturday. The man who brings them is filthy. His helper who carries them upstairs, and we pay an additional fee for that, appears pretty filthy too. The bottles are filthy, and no amount of wiping, spraying, brushing will take the grime off these many times re-used plastic barrels. In spite of this, we do convince ourselves that the water has been bacteria busted and has been through both UV and reverse osmosis filters. We cannot correlate the filth on the external to the possibility of internal at this feeble moment in time.
Walking down the local high-street is a filthy affair. Garbage is freely discarded along the roadside, and the cows, no longer even bother to seek fodder from the endless strewn plastic waste. Buying shampoo from the newly stocked local grocery store brings me a nice, no reason to complain, free extra bottle and I smile as he hands them over to me. There is a small delay as he asks the young boy to wipe them for me. Of course, his cloth is a filthy, unwashed rag. He hands them over, and both bottles are covered in dark, filthy grime.
I am one of those fools that will happily eat street food and drink Fresh Bael juice and/or Sugar Cane juice and I am still in complete denial of the real perils that lurk in these places; I do not know first-hand how incredibly awful Typhoid or Dysentery really are, and my not-so-iron cast stomach still allows me this incredible indulgence. The cane juice wallah is a syphilitic pot-marked old bloke, deeply unfriendly, and deeply distrustful of the world; over time I feel almost girl-like, when he gladly offers me his toothless but genuine smile. I feel charmed, and blessed to be accepted in such a tough, rough, neighborhood by one of the local elders. He too, from top to toe, roof to gravel ground, and every surface of his booth, great-nephews included is filthy. Although not at all true, he looks like he might have last taken a bath in 1967.
The great leveler, is that by the time I am sitting there alongside fellow customers, crumpled from the debilitating heat, relaxing roadside with disgusting, diesel fumes pouring out of every unregistered vehicle, in the desert dry dust, I too am filthy.
I think it is unlikely I will ever get used to it. And less likely I will find acceptance of it.
But it does make me understand a little more clearly why I have become such a relentlessly Bad Indian Wife, to keep asking “Darling, When and where are we moving?”