Visiting one of the cities in India where you can feel the cold hands of winter, the bathroom becomes a warm sanctuary. As you soak yourself under the shower in an endless stream of warm water being heated by the circuitry of the geyser, your mind travels back to a time when the electric geyser was still not common and one used to squat in the bathroom on a little stool or on the floor and manually pour water on one’s body from a bucket in a series of well-rehearsed mechanics.
We drew the water out from the bucket with a plastic mug and poured it over our self; bathing one part of our body at a time. We pictured our body segregated into limbs, deserving localized attention. With a bar of soap, we lathered one part of our body at a time and then gave it a good scrub. Bathing was a sort of phase-wise project, one body part after another, till our entire frame was cleansed. In winter, this was particularly delightful as we warmed our body in instalments, heaping love on parts that comforted us most.
As we sat with our knees folded, we were the squatting natives. Our bodies compressed, we understood the limitation of resources, the rationing of materials. It was hard work to heat the water on a gas stove or the wood-fired chula. It was tricky to fill the heavy bucket and then carry it awkwardly between your legs to the bathroom without dropping the precious warm water. Bathing, therefore, was less about relaxing and more about getting the job done.
The shower, on the other hand, is about enjoying the luxury of abundant water. As the warm water flows incessantly, we abandon ourselves under the cascade. The word “shower” is evocative of showering ourselves with the riches of flowing water. The luxury of our personal rain in the bathroom. We immerse our entire body as a single seamless unit under the shower, like an otter standing under a torrent of water. Often the bar of soap is replaced by a shower gel as if to complement the fluid motions needed to cleanse our upright lithe body (our tummy sucked in). We enjoy this submergence of our complete corporeal entity under the blissful deluge of warm water.
Probably, the only jolly the shower cannot provide as compared to the bucket, is the unalloyed joy of tipping the contents of the bucket on our head at the end of our bath. This was the only reckless joy where we created a mini-waterfall on our body, and intoned ‘har har gangey’ or motor-boated our lips to utter a triumphant “brrrruuah”, a sort of happy ending to the bath, a final hurrah of cascading warmth for our entire being.
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