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On a brief visit to London from the Sussex University in Brighton, where I was a study fellow in the mid seventies, I happened to stay at the residence of a friend’s relative. I had not known him earlier, but, being on a meager allowance. I took advantage of his generous offer to spend the night with him rather in a hotel.

He had two-bed-room flat not for far away from South Hall where most Indians and Pakistanis live. His wife was working in a post office and his two teen-aged daughters were studying in a school. He himself was a salesman in some concern.

The bed-rooms were on the first floor and the drawing room below the staircase. It was a modest house belonging to a modest man who had a large heart.

Adjoining the drawing room, in which I spent the night on a sofa-cum-bed, was a bathroom. In the morning when I wanted to use it, I discovered that it had a wall-to-wall carpet. The gentleman’s wife had placed for me a new towel on the towel stand and a new cake soup in the soapbox. Above the bathtub, which was made of white cement or marble, there were two taps, one for hot water and other for cold. But the tub itself war surrounded by the carpet. So was the space around the WC and below  the wash-basin.

How to take your bath in a bath-tub without allowing the water to sprinkle outside it? I did not know that art and skipped my bath. While shaving, I took special care to ensure that nothing fell outside        the wash-basin. Some foam from the brush did fall on the carpet. I wiped it off with the towel.

In London, as elsewhere in Europe, people are used to “dry-cleaning”. In France, they have community bathrooms, to use which one has to pay a tidy sum. My host, as he told me later, did have a proper bathroom; I mean one without a carpet. But that was on the first floor, between the two bed-rooms, and despite his pleas, I did not think it proper to use it.

“No bathrooms in my house, only glamor rooms,” says the charming girl in the TV advertising. She is promoting some sanitary ware – wash-basin, tubs, cistern and things like that, all installed inside a bathroom. The focus is on the shapes and shades and curves and contours of the stuff as well as on the girl, first shown in a gown and then fully dressed. I suppose in between her two appearances, she must have taken her bath.

Where – if she does not have a bathroom in her house? or, if the bathroom  has a wall-to-wall carpet as was my experience that night in London?

Well, I don’t know the answer to the question. Maybe we are coming close to that point in time when the good old saying ‘inner cleanliness comes first’ becomes as good a joke as was recent Earth Summit in Rio de Jenerio.



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