Small Town-World View (My Cousin Series)

Some of the things that Private, MS and my cousin discussed were world issues. As this was 1970’s small town with no Internet or TV, everything was hearsay. The fact that they had never ventured more than 50 miles of our town, did not read newspapers or listened to someone who was even remotely informed resulted in very interesting observations:

There definitely would be a world war III. India and Russia would be on one side and Pakistan, America, China and England would be on other side (these were constantly changing alliances and there was no reasoning behind it). We will win because Lord Hanumanjee is on our side and Russians are 7 feet tall.

Never eat meat! If you do, you will immediately become a Muslim and becoming Hindu again will be very difficult. Once you become a Muslim, they will cut your penis (this was their understanding of circumcision). Do you want to be a penisless Muslim?

Japan is a great country to be a schoolboy. You don’t have to read any books. You just make radios in school and TV’s in high school.

Never marry a Luzkrakter (Loose character). Never fall in love with a Sikh or Muslim girl. Their families will kill you.

Never marry a very beautiful woman because all your friends then are not visiting “you”.

Never marry an ugly woman. Your own children will be scared of her and you will have ugly children.

Bengalis are brainy but weak. Gujaratis are good businessmen but cowards (Gandhi never beat one Firangi). All south Indians are Madrassis and all they eat is rice. Always respect a fat man because they generally represent good families and are wealthy. If stereotyping was an art form these were the greatest artists of times.

All white people were from America, England and Germany. I tried to tell them that I have heard about countries such as Switzerland, Sweden, Denmark etc. They would immediately dismiss me. “We are talking about countries and you are talking about cities.”

When a girl says no, she means yes. Because that’s how they are!

If you want to find out if a girl is in love with you, all you have to do is shoulder bump her. If she smiles at you, she is in love with you. The details after that were sketchy but it involved giving a love letter as soon as possible. Because if you delay that part, someone else might shoulder bump her and she might become someone else’s.

Never trust or follow a person with toes in the back and heel in front. They are ghosts.

Bathing and such luxuries in 1970’s small town India

lifebuoy

A Lifebuoy soap broken in half with a hammer. This was done to “save money” by housewives.

One of the things I remember growing up in India was bathing and washing products. The first memories of any soap I have are of Lifebuoy. This was not the type of Lifebuoy soap in some fancy wrapper you see now days. It was a no-nonsense hardcore tool. It was pretty much a red rectangular thick brick. It used to produce very minimal foam if any. I think the plan was to rub it vigorously against skin so that top layer would peel by sheer friction. This torturous activity was carried out in all households with children at least 2-3 times weekly.

The children protested it and based on their method of protest could be categorized as screamers, hiders, biters, spitters and cursers. But the soap them ruled all was Lifebuoy. Though highly unlikely that any kind of dirt will escape Lifebuoy’s vigorous rubbing, there was also a rock specifically designed to get rid of that stubborn dirt that even Lifebuoy could not get off.

mustard

Yes, it was a cooking oil as well!

After the bath, the body was massaged with mustard oil. Those of you who never had this soul scorching experience, just imagine a yellow colored, foul-smelling thick viscous grease. This thing adhered to anything it was applied to. And applied it was! It was rubbed in hair, to face and whole body.

The torture did not end there. After this there was Kajal (mascara) applied to eyes, which was equivalent of water boarding for a child. If you never had the pleasure of this experience, imagine being 5-6 years old, being held down by all fours, someone forcing your eyes open and slithering a black powder inside your eyelids. It was applied to both boys and girls eyes. After this a black dot was put on forehead or face to protect one from evil spirits. There was also a black string tied around waste for the same reason. Only after all these things were done in this particular sequence, you were ready to face the world.

thapi

This is what was used to beat the clothes.

The washing soap was even more hardcore. It was a thick rock looking slab. It produced no foam. Women (no men ever washed clothes) continued to rub it against clothes and beat the heck out of clothes with a cricket bat like wooden slab called Thapi. In fact women were very happy that this soap lasted so long. I honestly believe that this was another cruel joke played on women by men. This thing was no soap, just looked like one.

This was creepy as hell!

Once in a while we were taken to barbershop. Rather we were conned into going there. We were made to believe that we are going to get some sweets/toys. Once we realized the con, most of us started to scream, cry and run away. But it was too late. The shops had one person whose job was to hold kid down while “master” did the cutting part.

At times your barber could be a trainee. This could result in some real unfortunate results. Grandmothers got very mad when they saw what has been done to apple of their eyes. As all grandmothers believed that their grandson was the best looking kid, they walked right to shop and told the shop owner what they thought about them. The “master” would try to fix trainees misdeeds and occasionally slap him a couple of times too.