A day of sight-seeing was arranged by Michelle. It was good to get away from the pressure of school. Us and the other ex-pats were meeting up, and were travelling by train to see some more sights of central Mumbai. I will remember some of the sights that I saw, but not as much as the train journey into central Mumbai.
It was not the first time that myself and the ex-pats had used the train, but it seemed however experienced you were at using this method of transport, you never seemed to get used to it.
The ex-pats ladies (and Theo) used the ladies compartment which was, at least, a little bit more civilised, while the ‘die hards’, Andrew and I, had to fight it out in the men’s carriage – cattle class!
We squeezed on finding our way under peoples’ arm pits to make sure we were away from the open doors, and any danger of falling out of the moving train. I remember a sketch from the comic Ben Elton, where he said ‘have to get a double seat’. Well, no chance of that on these trains; to get even a part of a seat is an achievement.
I had noticed on entering the train that I was sweating. Not normal sweating, but sweating really badly. I had noticed that my legs and shorts were soaked, soaked so bad that it looked like I had been sitting in a puddle for ten minutes. I managed to grab a metal bar in the train to stabilise myself from all the rocking of the moving train. I held the metal bar firmly, and I noticed sweat was running down my forearm. I managed to get Andrew a part of a seat on the aisle, while I remained standing and sweating.
I noticed a young Muslim guy had pushed his way forward and was indicating for me to move over so that he could sit down. I looked at him. He offered me a hope that there might be a chance of a seat, as he continued to jockey his way down the aisle of the train. He looked at me and smiled. He had a dyed orange beard and was wearing a white cap called a taqiyah. I tapped him on the shoulder because he looked uncomfortable about pinching the available seat from under my eyes. He looked up, but when I looked at him, smiled and indicated that he should take the seat, I think he was both happy and surprised. A few minutes passed and I noticed that the sweat on my forearms was increasing, but now it seemed it had a place to go. It was running off of my arm, down onto my hand, leaving my body and dripping on this poor guy’s head that I had just offered my seat to. I was embarrassed. I sort of grinned through clenched teeth and apologised, he was uncomfortable that my sweat was hitting him, but sort of accepted my apology. Well not really, he was embarrassed too, he thought perhaps the only way he could move from my line of fire was to further squeeze up on the seat to allow me to sit down. And that’s what he did, we all moved along, ‘and the little one said move over’. He thought that this would be the answer to stop the embarrassment of my sweat problem, however he was wrong. I sat down next to him. Andrew was the other side of him. After a few more minutes, he looked down at his garment that was touching my shorts, and yes, it was wet. He tried to move away from my puddle-making machine but he was trapped, nowhere to go and nowhere to hide, he was going to get wet and there was nothing he could do to stop this happening. I just looked down to the floor, further embarrassed about the amount of liquid that was being released from my body.
Social hierarchy, careers or money count for nothing in biology. Sweat is sweat, and this leakage was good ole whiteman’s, English sweat.
It made me think more about sweat, and after years of teaching PE to children, I have said never be embarrassed when you sweat, especially young girls. It is a totally natural mechanism that your body is programmed to do. To release water from your body to cool you down. However Michelle always says that women and girls don’t sweat they just perspire.
Whatever way you think about sweat, you certainly have a good chance to witness it here, on an overcrowded train in 40 plus degrees heat in the middle of Mumbai. It’s also a true fact that the odour we produce can only be smelt after it has dried out, and that can take up to be over two hours. But on this train judging by the smells, people must have sweated previously. It was almost like animal warfare, where all the smells of sweat were competing to take the prize of being the one everyone noticed.
I thought further, whilst I was sitting there sweating, there are three ways you can deal with this natural response of sweating. I will name them.
The best, the most efficient and most civilised way to deal with sweat is to wipe it. A cloth or a flannel is carried and you use the cloth to simply wipe your brow. Even using your shirt sleeve or any part of your clothing can be put into this category.
This is for the forgetful person, who has forgotten to bring a cloth with them. The sweat is running down your face and you have to use your hand to stop the sweat continuing on its journey. I am sure we have all employed this method sometime in our lives. There are various ways which you can use this paw-er method. The most common is the hand, but sometimes in restricted space, an arm or even the triceps can be used. For the posh amongst us, it is OK to use the finger, for some reason people that use their fingers to remove their sweat think they can be excused for forgetting to bring a cloth. The most common is the forefinger, and it is gently employed with calm and precision, and moved along the eye brow stopping the sweat from dripping into the eye. For those even posher you can adopt your little finger, but be aware if anyone is watching, as it does look rather stupid.
The third way is the ……………
Leaver or Dripper
This brings me back to the present, and I am now witnessing this method on the train, right in front of my eyes. To choose this method to deal with runaway sweat is beyond any comprehension. To just to let sweat to run off of your body and do nothing about it, can be perceived of either complete control or torture. I am sitting next to my new wet Muslim friend and I am observing a ‘leaver’ straight in front of me. He was porting stubble; maybe this was part of his plan, as this partial beard could soak up the sweat or help it decide which path each drop of sweat would follow on its full journey.
He was holding a phone and was wearing head phones: was he a ‘leaver’ by choice or was he not aware of it because he was in deep concentration? Either way, it was soon to be proved this guy was certainly a leaver. The sweat had started its journey and just like a river starts its journey in the mountains, the sweat had started on this guy’s forehead. Droplets were forming, the first stages of the ‘leavers’ process. As the droplets gained in volume, the weight started them in motion, this early stage can easily be converted. This would be the first opportunity to move from a ‘leaver’ and change to a ‘paw-er’ or a ‘wiper’, but to leave the ‘leavers’ process, action is required. Movement of a limb or clothes needs to be employed, this is the time to do something about the sweat forming on your face. I say to myself, just wipe it, paw it, and remove it. But no, he was a ‘leaver’.
The stream was starting to turn into a river, gravity helping it on its course. The droplets started to move around his eyes. This must be the time when concentration is broken, sweat in the eyes hurts. He must wipe or paw. But no, he was a ‘leaver’.
The river entered out of its youthful stage and increased in width. The droplets were visible from anywhere on the train. They picked up speed and ran down his nose, ‘wipe it please’. But no, he was a ‘leaver’.
Finally a droplet stopped, like a river taking a rest before it enters the sea. The droplet had stop right on the end of this guy’s nose. How could he not feel that, how could he let it rest there. Was this control, torture or complete madness? I stared at him with my observation glasses full on, my mouth wide open, I even felt myself leaning forward to get a closer look as I look up from my seated position. He was oblivious to what this single droplet had achieved; it had made it to his nose, whereas if he was a wiper, the droplet would have been a long time dead. This droplet had moved from its original purpose of cooling his body, to now being very annoying. It was painful to watch. But not for this guy – he was a ’leaver’.
So the droplet rested on this guy’s nose. I started to move my head in anticipation that the droplet of sweat would soon leave this guy’s body, just like my sweat had done earlier and hit the Muslim guy on the head. I could only think of the time in a circus when the whole crowd goes completely silent, just before the acrobat achieves his final finale. The droplet now seemed that it had been in position on the end of this guy’s nose for an eternity. It had been there too long, maybe the droplet was like its owner, maybe the droplet was a ‘leaver’ too.
A train full of sweaty people and I am the only person now watching this ‘leaver’ and his droplet. “Come on please wipe it free, please paw it off, come be like the rest of us on the train, and come on be normal”. But no he was a ‘leaver’ and the droplet remained.
Just as time nearly stood still and without any warning there is movement from the ‘leaver’. Was it a paw, a flannel, a finger or a cloth?
No. The ‘leaver’ has finally cracked. In what seems like slow motion the ‘leaver’ shook his head. Just like a dog would shake himself dry after a swim in the sea. The droplet had completed its course and went flying across the train. The ‘leaver’ then regained his calm again, and more droplet started to form on his head once more.
Maybe this guy is not a ‘leaver’ after all. Maybe he falls into a fourth category. Maybe he is a ………………………………………………