Let’s talk about bathing

  • Aarish chhabra, Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
  • Updated: Feb 08, 2015 00:51 IST

She is hot. She is looking right at me. She wants me to touch her, take my clothes off, and then do the needful. I am unwilling. I am scared. I may be able to touch her, but I don’t think I can take my clothes off, forget doing the needful.

She is a bucket of water on a cold morning. I am just human.

If you hate people who do not take a bath every day, please stop reading right here and, instead, start writing one of those lovely hate mails that make unworthy columnists feel important.

If you are still reading, you may also believe that the election in Delhi or Obama’s comment on communalism in India would be the top two concerns for anyone writing anything anywhere in our country at this time. But there are bigger matters at hand, matters that reek of significance. And this column has always — barring some stray political commentary brought upon by an overdose of Facebook — endeavoured to address the wider human condition.

Bathing every day, without question, is one of the basic struggles of mankind in our nosey country, where people’s first reaction at smelling too much deodorant on you is: “Nahaya ni aaj?” (Didn’t you bathe today?) The deo-spray may have cost you a bomb at non-discounted rates at Body Shop, but these habitual harbingers of our social conscience have only one concern: Whether or not you poured a certain number of litres of water over your body to follow a norm, no matter if there was dirt on you at all.

That’s unfair, especially if I’ve shivered the hell out of myself, staring at that bucket for at least 20 minutes, then made some splashing noises for those outside to hear, poured the rest of the water down the drain quietly, and walked out in a towel after finally taking my clothes off, shivering more vigorously than ever to prove that I subjected myself to a through wash. It needs a lot of effort to pretend that you actually did the needful.

Though my unscientific belief is that in Chandigarh you can never get as dirty as to waste so much water every day, research shows that science is on my side too.

Of course, you can find articles on benefits of daily bathing, but experts agree that bathing too much can have a damaging effect on your skin. The outermost layer — called the ‘horny layer’ (no joke) — is a barrier of hardened, dead skin cells that protect the inner layers composed of healthy cells. My trusted research source, howstuffworks.com, says the horny layer is held together by lipids, which are fatty compounds that maintain moisture in your skin. Anytime you take a shower (or use the bucket-and-mug route to a worldly definition of cleanliness), you dissolve away these lipids.

The more you bathe, the more damage you inflict on yourself, leaving little time for the skin to repair itself through natural oil production. No wonder, the result of bathing too frequently is dry, irritated skin.

To India and the rest of our Akhand Bharat, this research may seem true only for the winter.

Wait, there’s an all-season, good terrorist-bad terrorist argument too.

Just as the stomach contains good bacteria that help it run more efficiently, our skin too has beneficial germs that we might not want to wash down the drain, says a helpful report in the New York Times. “Good bacteria are educating your own skin cells to make your own antibiotics,” says Dr Richard Gallo, chief of dermatology division at the University of California, San Diego. “It’s is not just removing the lipids and oils on your skin that’s drying it out,” Gallo says, “[Daily bathing] could be removing some of the good bacteria that help maintain a healthy balance of skin.” Now that’s good reason, besides sheer laziness, for you to skip that bath even in the summer that’s fast approaching. God bless Gallo.

As for the rationalists, many middle-path experts believe if you use public transport, visit the gym, or work in a non-AC sweatshop of some kind, you may need to soap up the exposed parts of your body, at least your hands. That’s fair. No one really has a problem with Global Handwashing Day, which occurs only once a year, on October 15.And if you’re hell-bent on hygiene, you can clean some vital parts with a wet towel on non-bath days. In any case, put on clean layers of clothing — all of them — every day, and you should be fine. (No, changing sides is cool only if you live in a hostel!)

As for the bucket of water staring at you on a cold morning, don’t let it guilt you into submission just because it’s hot. In fact, make that a rule for life, and you’d do just fine.

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