I am extremely perturbed today. I have learnt from various sources that it's against gentle manners to dry your laundry out on balconies, your balconies of your houses, out here in Brussels. I also learn that this is true for many countries around the world, but about those mennu kee. I'm not looking for comfort in numbers here. I am, right now, looking at the sun shining on my balcony, and with a gentle wind calling out to the washed laundry piled in the bucket near my feet, waiting to be freed.
Yes, freed. I'm sure wet clothes have feelings too. That they like to hang freely after what they go through in the washing machines. To wave their arms and legs and hems and holes as they dry in the wind and sunshine. And what about their daily dose of vitamin D? No, this isn't my angry state of mind muttering untruths to me. This is the absolute truth. It pinches as hard as the hardest clothes-clip the very moment you have to push your clothes rack into your drawing room, and start hanging your soaking laundry there, hoping this summer will last forever.
Why, our clothes proudly unfurling their insides outside are as much a part of our core identity as a flag is made out to be.
For a city which barely manages to get enough sun in a year to make rai ka achaar, I find this tradition absolutely unbelievable. Or maybe they just don't know what they're missing! We who have been line-drying our clothes in India since the planet of the apes know what it's like. The wafer-crispiness of clothes dried in the warm embrace of sunshine is orgasmic to hold. The towels become prickly happy, the separated socks feel loved, the bermudas reach their sandy beach of dreams and even the underwear, for once, feels wanted in the public gaze, with nothing to hide!
Why, our clothes proudly unfurling their insides outside are as much a part of our core identity as a flag is made out to be. That is why I say to whomsoever it may concern, that this foreign rule of drying clothes inside houses is nothing but an affront to my patriotic spirit, my nationalism, my national song, dance, drama and costumes.
Costumes... it makes me wonder. Consider the salwar of the salwar-suit fame. It has many, some even secret, parts which need proper wind and sun to dry. The amount of cloth which goes into making just one of those could cover a whole war bunker against attack. Something so valorous about it, in keeping with the sex which wears it. See how "nada", the string, or "bookrum", said in the right tone, can veritably be war cries. Rebel! Nada! Charge! Bookrum! How is it then expected to humbly hang on a clothes rack, in a forgotten corner of the house, waiting to dry without bellowing with invasive might in foreign winds? It's just mean.
Like a traffic red light in New Delhi, where a Maruti 800 meets a Jaguar without reservation, the clothes-line quietly works on a similar principle of erasing class boundaries.
A man's most prized all-purpose possession, again nothing less than a steel armour, the baniyan, suffers similarly. No matter that the vest has been with the man since his mother darned the fifth hole that it got with age, as it went from white to less white to yellow in its first three washes. It is forced to swallow its "VIP" tag, forget that it was once a "Boss" and hang alongside other wet bits of a man's inner world. Sadly, the new-born sixth hole teeming with curiosity to have a peek at the world around is to suppress its desire and get denied its basic education. Heart-breaking! Here they call the vest "gilet", and assuming the "t" is silent, because just anything in French can be silent anytime, it's sad they don't see the message the vests are screaming through their names. "Geeley', we are wet! Dry us outside!" Learning Hindi needs to be made compulsory here, for the sake of equality and fraternity!
Talking about equality... nothing acts as a bigger leveller than one, long, sturdy clothes-line. Like a traffic red light in New Delhi, where a Maruti 800 meets a Jaguar without reservation, the clothes-line quietly works on a similar principle of erasing class boundaries. On your line, be it a rusty wire or a plastic rope, the Zaras and the Rupas hang shoulder to shoulder, sans prejudices and biases, with a message of gender-equality subtly thrown in. So here will be your precious Benetton pair of socks bought for the price of your kidney and next to it you'll see your jeans, custom-made in two hours at Mohan-Singh Place, CP, choice of tag included! And you know as well as I do how now, more than ever, we need to stand visibly together against any kind of oppressive regime.
Like this anti clothes-line rule, for instance!
For now, I have hung my washed laundry on a rack and placed it in the warmest part of the house, inches away from the balcony. Like a "nearest to heaven but farthest from god" approach. But the nationalist in me is itching to twist and tease some gentle-manners, and hang one, just one, piece of my clothing on the railing outside. Like my banner of protest; of rejection of some things foreign. That will be my war-cry against this mind-boggling rule.
That will be my Nada!
[First published on sakshinanda.com]