Ever since the lockdown I have taken passionately to sweeping and mopping floors of my homes in Faridabad and Kolkata. I visualise and plan the best ways to do the turns of the rooms, which order must I sweep them so that the dust collected by my broom finds the easiest passage to the dust pan. I have also visualised the corners in which dust collects and how best to reach them through ways more innovative than ever. The results have shown, floors look clean and feel soft. After this mammoth activity, I use the mop to clean the grills and here in lies the tale that I will tell today.
The house where my parents live was built by my grandfather in 1960, the same year as my birth. Fortunately for everyone my father is an only child and the house did not need to go to the builder. My mother has maintained it really well and this is one area where she has never compromised on finances. The house thus remains much as it was, except some renovations to get me a room to myself after my brother got married and claimed more space in the house. This story is therefore to tell the readers that the grills on the Windows have not been changed. I dust these grills, as old as me everyday. They remain as usual glossy and sleek. These are those flowers with impossible curves so that if you clean these with ordinary cloth both the cloth and the skin on your fingers can meet the same level of bruises.
But when I do the same exercise of dusting the grills in my Faridabad home, the grills tend to rust. These grills are only 15 years old and modern, straight lined in geometric designs and are so much easier to dust. Curved lines tend to rust more than straight lines, and the curved ones are older than the straight ones by 45 years, or three life cycles of an automobile. Then what happened? The quality of steel has seen a drastic deterioration over the long term so much so that people no longer trust steel. The substitution of steel by plastics, the tendency to use no steel in constructing pucca houses, the ongoing popularity of wood and new research on alloys to replace mild steel are signs that people trust steel less and less. The overwhelming use of stainless steel in place of mild steel in rural India is a point in the case. We are having a lower quality of steel by the day.
Then I also discovered that the helps in both places left the bottom of the cupboards and the back of the chairs undusted and unswept. As soon as I took to the broom and the mop suddenly the floors shone in a manner that I did not know that they could. I realised soon enough that as much as I took pride in my activity, servants hated it. I do not remember that sweeping and mopping was so resented by our servants in our childhood. This morning when I discovered that I had a bruise in my forearm and could not remember where I could have hurt myself, the maid readily told me that I hurt myself when I was in the act of cleaning. I notice that servants in either place do not care to remove even a mat to sweep the floor clean, let alone remove furniture and I think that they fear that they will hurt themselves or they will be strained. The problem is that the present generation is not attentive enough to do sweeping and mopping any more. Cleaning needs mental focus, one cannot clean stuff until and unless one is mentally calm. India is unclean because most of its people are mentally agitated. The lack of calm that makes India unclean also is the underlying cause in producing poor quality of steel, the lack of focus.