The regressive analysis
Most of us in Northern India have the waking memory of our Dadi and Nani being very rigid about the etiquette regarding food, kitchen, bathing, clothes etc. Most of us will have clear memory of the practice of ‘Chua- chut’. These practices were extremely rigid, not everyone was allowed to enter the kitchen. The Indian Kitchen was the sanctum sanctorum of the house which was not accessible to all. A person who had gone outside would have to take a bath after coming home. The clothes which were worn outside the house would not be used till they were washed. Shoes could not be worn inside the house and not even slippers or the traditional Khadaun could be brought inside the kitchen. Even servants were not allowed to touch the food that was to be served to family members. On coming home from outside the first action was to wash ones hands, then take off the clothes to be left for washing and unless a person had bathed, he or she was not considered fit to touch anything or eat.
I have deliberately gone in some detail to describe these practices, to jog the memory of people , doesn’t all this sound familiar, the washing of hands, the taking of bath after coming home from outside, washing the clothes if they had been worn outside before using them again, not everyone or everything being allowed inside the kitchen…..
As we grapple with the COVID pandemic and the world is still reeling from the rising count of COVID patients; the New Normal has introduced the increased vigil. From the state to the common man everyone is propagating the hygiene consciousness. This is not just true for India but the world over; there is an increased vigil about the hygiene.
It had suddenly occurred to me that we already had these practices in place, in most of the North Indian families, which were denounced vociferously in the name of orthodoxy and regressive thinking. With the modernization of India and relegation of our old and somewhat rigid practices, gradually this Kitchen etiquette changed. These practices were seen as obsolete and as great hindrance to modern thinking and modern way of life, which the newly independent India was ready to embrace.
Today most of us are aware that native practices gradually take shape due to social, economic, political and religious forces of the regions. It can therefore be suitably put forth that these practices had emanated due to some such previous requirement forced by some immediate need or circumstance. It just may have been due to similar epidemic or pandemic.
Of course it was just one of my fleeting thoughts, which would require a tremendous body of research to establish the correlation of the earlier practices of ‘chua-chut’ with the current hygiene consciousness, however it is not too difficult to find the semblance between the earlier practices of ‘Chua-chut’ related to common house-holds and the modern advocacy of hygiene consciousness as a preventive measure for COVID 19. I must say for a teacher or an academician every idea is worth exploring, particularly in the current times when we have more questions than answers.