Friday, August 29, 2008

Washing Dishes

Its really strange how one thing brings memories of long gone, forgotten times. We had just finished eating dinner. M S P V from office had come over, and being a good guest one of the girls offered to do the dishes. Standing next to the basin she asked what do I use to wash dishes as she cannot find see any soap or detergent. I had been lazy lately. Was staying alone in the house and if I cleaned my dishes immediately after eating I didn’t need soap, just scrub and wash with water and it was clean (for me). So I was like just scrub and wash and it got me a big glare from her. I opened the cabinet and handed her some detergent.

My grandfather (father’s father) used to live alone. Not all his life else how could he be grandfather, but most of his old life he lived alone. I really do not know if he deserved to live like that, if he chose to live like that, was he happy, not happy or many other things. All I was told as a child was that he was not good to his kids and wife, and then my father and grandmother left that home. I never bothered to ask much about what why how of everything. Maybe I will ask father someday. One day when he can talk like he used to. So, the old man lived alone and we used to visit him once every year or so (mostly when there was a chance of making some money out of the visit, but that’s a totally different story).

The house where he lived just looked as old and ancient as I remember him to be. The walls, bricks, woods everything surrounding him grew with him and as he moved from walking straight to slightly bent with a walking stick, from walking fast to a slow painful pace, from a man to an old man everything in that place grew with him in the same direction (this direction was finally broken by my father when one day under a deluge of abuses from old man he brought down a portion of that old house and built a slightly better place so that no one was worried about old man getting buried under his own roof) That was the only major change in that place till grandfather died.

We used to call him ‘Bapu ji’. Mostly Bapu when he was not around. Bapu is a word for an old male and Ji is a word of respect. So on our visits to Bapu Ji’s (he is not around anymore but why mess with spirits) place mom will busy herself with the cleaning and washing and removing the year long dirt, dust, cob webs and making that place livable. I think the true family with whom Bapu Ji lived was cleaned out in those few days by mother, to make that place livable for old man for some time and for the displaced members of that peaceful existence (spiders, lizards, wasps, flies and what not) to gather again in the time between then and the next visit by someone who will wipe them out again.

We kids spent time walking around the village, which was quite comparable in size to a small town. Grandfather would take us around to the Gurdawara, where he spent most of his time. He would take us to few families whom he visited sometimes.

Of all the tasks that mother did in the short stay in grandfather’s house, he hated one the most. I think he hated most of the tasks as it was disturbing his kingdom under his nose but the dishwashing was one thing he openly expressed his unhappiness with.

Until the soaps and detergents took over most of the homes in rural areas used ash or sand and few stems of dried grass as scrubber to clean the dishes. It was an excellent way of cleaning dishes and even now when the soaps cant win a battle with grease, the old instruments have a way. According to grandfather just passing the dishes under water should be enough. Why scrub away the dishes uselessly.

I empathize with him now, after all these years. Although he was father to four and grandfather to many more, in that home in that village, in the life he was living, he was a lone man. Lonely I cannot say. Living as a lone bachelor now I understand there is no point in using soap in cleaning dishes every time when I am the one who is going to use these dishes again. That’s not the most hygienic way of doing it but that’s the lazy-efficient-bachelor way of doing it. Whether grandfather was lazy, efficient only he knows I for sure can say he lived a bachelor’s life in his last years.

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