Monday, November 15, 2010

Footprints in white

There are many good reasons to come back to India. Weather isn’t one of them.

If you go strictly by the mercury, Mumbai should be pretty heavenly. The monthly average temperatures in the city according to are remarkably steady. The lows are in the mid-seventies, and highs are in the mid-eighties. A sort of Puerto Rico, if you will. In fact, the average temperature charts of Mumbai and Puerto Rico look remarkably similar.


All of which is divine and ‘party-time’-y, till you add in the humidity.

Living in Bombay is like being on the inside of a cloud. It is vaguely misty all around, and you feel perpetually wet. No, the cloud metaphor is probably too … fresh. Let me try another. Living in Bombay is like being a flea on a water buffalo. It stinks, it is difficult to get around, and you are always sticky. (Yeah, this one is probably closer.)

It is the stickiness that gets to me. Always has. I have been bothered by the heat, don’t get me wrong. Particularly those few years when my parents lived in the Nagpur-Chandrapur belt - where summer time temperatures routinely touched 110. Oh yes, I have been bothered by the heat. But it is the stickiness that really gets under me skin. No so my wife. She is bothered neither by the heat nor by the humidity. ‘Balmy’. That’s her word for Bombay weather. It is 85 degrees and 80% humidity outside. And she sticks with ‘balmy’. Which is usually the starting point of our A/C debates.

Here is the summary of the Great Air Conditioning Debate in my household: I believe the air conditioning should be kept turned on the entire day. My wife believes I am a crazy head-case who probably thinks electricity is produced by rubbing coconuts. We have raging debates on the pros and cons of AC vs Windows (not the Gates ones, the ones that ventilate). The ‘children will catch a cold’ argument is brought out. The ‘it’s so dusty outside’ contention is put forth. The ‘be green’ line of reasoning is asserted. And all the while, the AC remains turned off. I remain sticky.

Aha! Said the wife the other day. I know exactly what we need to do to resolve our situation. She had a big grin on her face that day as evening was turning into night, and our conversation was taking its usual inexorable course towards the GACD. Wait right here, she said with a twinkle as she ran into the bathroom. Out she came with her answer – the brahmastra, the solution to the intractable stickiness problem. ‘Talcum Powder!’ I exclaimed, aghast. ‘But that’s for kids’. ‘Oh don’t be a baby!’ she said, thrusting a jar with suspiciously floral pictures on it, and a label that says ‘Lime flavor’. ‘Just layer it on, and see how you feel.’

That was about a month ago. The ‘layering it on’ has continued. India is probably the only country where talcum powder is used by adults as a cosmetic, comfort and beauty product. It is much more common around the world for it to be used for medicinal reasons, or on babies, in other words, with people who are in no position to complain about it. We desis are different.

I stand in the bathroom, towel wrapped around my waist, fresh from a cold shower. Out comes the floral jar. A few liberal sprinkles here, some shakes there, rub, rub, rub. Soon, my torso is white and smooth and powdery all the way to my neck. I wash my hands, step back from the mirror. All my sprinkling has layered the bathroom tiles white. ‘Maybe that’s the business model of talcum powder manufacturers’ I think to myself, ‘– build the product in a way that usage is inherently wasteful’. I step on the white, leaving my footprints on the sands of lime.

‘So?’ she asked me after the first few days. ‘How are you feeling about talcum powder now?’ I proudly unbutton my shirt, showing her the white under my collar. I smile. ‘By the way, hasn’t it been a while since we had the Great AC Debate?’


  1. Nice post..thank god we dont get that stickiness in Ahmedabad and needless to say the "talcum powder"..!!!

  2. I agree with A - 'balmy' weather. What's to complain about ?