Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Unclear on the concept

What is the role and mandate of a pair of gloves in India please? What are they supposed to accomplish when pulled onto a pair of brown hands? Who are the gloves supposed to protect? The wearer you would say, if the task at hand is dyeing of the hair or scrubbing of the sink. How about serving a meal or filling up a bad tooth? Will someone clear this fundamental confusion please? 

We are unclear on the concept in this part of the world. Waiters regularly and merrily dip their gloves in the best of Bukhara daals and roghan josh dishes. The hygiene project gets confounded further when those very serving gloves are used to give the dinner plates a final wipe over. What is it with us here in India, this uncontrollable urge to run the thumb and index finger over the steel scoop of the spoon before presenting it most respectfully to the hapless guest at home? Now fancy all those hospitable gestures with gloves on!

It is not uncommon to find medical assistants in dental centres opening doors, writing in the appointment diary, switching the TV on, adjusting the dental chair, handling the dental tools and waving a goodbye salute….all with the same pair of gloves on! As for the food sellers using those see through flimsy affairs, the less said the better.

At home is another story. We buy fancy and vibrant coloured gloves and hang them as show pieces in our baths and kitchens, going right ahead and using our bare hands for the job. In most homes the used gloves never get thrown out. They get relegated to more inferior tasks such as moving boxes, repairing a gadget or worse still stuffing a leaking pipe or tap.

It has something to do with the recycling DNA in our genes. Countries invent things; we in India invent their uses. Our humble lead pencil doubles up as a hair bun pin. Many Indian domestic gadgets are held together by a rubber band. The bob pin has functioned well as an ear bud for generations. I doubt the safety pin has found as versatile and wide ranging a use in any other nation; why, it holds together everything here from the saree pallu to our national pride.

Walk into a typical Indian home and voice the innocent query, “Wonder if you would have something here to put this stuff in ?” There will be an avalanche of used bags, wrappers, strings, ribbons, plastic containers and spoons……we simply cannot bring ourselves to throw away garbage. Something in our history has made us hoarders. We hang on to all kinds of domestic trash. What if we needed a shiny red button some day! What if the children got nostalgic for their yellow smiley ball in the distant future! What if tooth brushes were to suddenly go out of fashion!

And now gloves. We don’t know what to do with them. Does one take them off and wash them after use?! With bare hands?! What are the dos and don’ts of using these extremity covers? Disposable does not sit well with our psyche. How about we chuck this idea out of the door and stick to good old washing of hands. There is a school of thought however that says frequent washing erases the lines of “kismet” on the palm.

Any day preferable to what coats the pair of gloves I would say!

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