Tired feet, hot water and humble Chalaa….Simla in the Sixties
I am wavering between two extremes….these days….both poles apart!! The bathroom fittings are at final stage and we seek our kid’s suggestion regarding what else they want in the bathrooms!! Perhaps no one….not even I thought about. “What do I want?” This house would be a home to me, rather is a home to me right now but my mind travel backs to the small “home” in the lanes of Lower Bazaar in Simla of the Sixties!!! And the real life in that beautiful cozy home!
Amma would make us soak our feet in hot water….every single night, before going to bed. She would say, “You are on your toes for whole of the day. ..and your feet sure are tired!” and would make a wry face adding, “and stinking!”
There used to be a humble Chala…a rectangular place with an outlet and a raised boundary to sit upon. Amma would clean utensils here and would swipe it clean with the short and sharp bristles if the broom, kept in one corner of the Chalaa. This was the place I would put the chilamchi on, put a lota or two of hot water from the Tarmehra resting on the simmering heat of Angithee, gradually pouring more of hot water on my soaked and relaxing feet.
Amma would say, “Take jhamva, the pumice stone, and scrub the heels hard!” I would, sometimes, scrub my feet in the rough cemented floor if the Chala and the soles of my feet would be new like a baby’s!!! I would rub my feet on the bori, the jute sack, kept near the chalaa and jump to the safe haven of area around Angithee!!
Amma would ask us to dry our feet putting them before the Angithee and then rub a little of Kaura tel…just a little….so that the bedding didn’t get a smear of Kaura tel!! What a relief it would be!
These days I walk all the day….going up and down nineteen stairs…from kitchen to the first floor and my feet are tired by the evening. There are geysers in the bathroom but no space to sit on a Patda, the wooden one, and soak my feet in hot water…or to rub the soles against the rough concrete acting like a pumice stone!! The antiskid floor tiles are no good as compared to the much used and rugged concrete of my dear Chalaa! And no jute sack to rub dry my feet before putting on my house slippers!! And then the constant fear of leaving water drops on shining marble stone and to slip on that breaking my old bones stops me from as far as trying soaking my feet in hot water!!!
I simply rub them clean on the soft rug under my bed and try to give rest to my body, soul and of course my feet!!! But mind waders off to much distant past!!
But luckily we have put rugged and uneven slates on the open courtyard and the verandah opposite to it is at right height to sit and rub my feet on the slated courtyard. So whenever in the evening, I have time, I sit on the verandah, dangling my feet down and washing them in cold water….rubbing them hard against the rough endings..drying them….and then putting in my house shoes!! I don’t dare to apply Kaura Tel lest the marble would soak it and would be so difficult to clean the smear! There is no rough bori to rub the feet on to clean them of any moisture!!
And then my kids call and ask me, “isn’t the new bathroom so comfortable!!!!” Like all generation Z kids they believe that bathrooms need to be theist relaxing space in the house! I agree with then as I think of the humble Chala with a little raised platform to accommodate soap, Jhamva, lota etc. and a humbler bori down on the floor to rub dry the feet….and the dying heat of the Angithee to warm my feet before hopping in the bed…till next morning when my feet would be ready and excited to jump up and down the stairs from Lower Bazaar to the Mall….without an iota of tiredness!!! All thanks to hot water in a tasla, a Chala and the Angithee!!!! And then we say that we have come a long way!!! My kids ask me, “What else do you require in the bathroom….” I quietly say ..nothing!