If you’ve been taking the overnight train in India you might be familiar with this: At the crack of dawn, just around that time when the cockroaches stop crawling across your blanket and retreat to wherever they came from, it starts.
No, you won’t need to carry an alarm on one of these trains. You will wake up, thinking right next to you there’s an elephant trumpeting while splashing water around. In addition, there’s a lot of snorting, spitting, grunting and throat clearing going on. Yes, that’s exactly the kind of thing you want to hear, right before the chai wallah goes round, serving breakfast tea. Any food? Masala dosai? Ahem, thanks. I’ll be alright.
Suddenly the noise stops. You’re prepared for anything – maybe not an elephant walking round the corner, but hey, it must be at least a fully grown, adult, male Indian, smiling from ear to ear. But oh no. In comes this tiny, fragile, incredibly beautiful looking woman, dressed in a spotless sari of the most wonderful colours and tissue. Hang on – that was her? What the hell happened just now?
In one word: Hygiene. We might just pop by the supermarket and get a toothbrush and toothpaste in whatever colour and taste we fancy – but not everybody does. That might be a matter of money, choice, custom, education – but yes, there are people who don’t even own a toothbrush. It’s a luxury for some, but of course it’s the same people who cannot afford a toothbrush who won’t be able to pay for the dentist.
But no problem without a solution. If you don’t have a brush, what do you do? You use your fingers. And that’s where Indians are a lot smarter than we are: they recognize the importance of cleaning your tongue. Just take the index and middle finger, stick them together, start rubbing your tongue, and see what comes off. Yes, you need to rub right back there, so that it all gets out. I know, we shouldn’t be attached to the outcome of our actions, but make an exception for this one – just focus on what gets out.
Soon you’ll be spitting and grunting away, just like everyone else!
And if you’re really into your fancy equipment, check out the company that sells everything you could possibly imagine, including tongue cleaners: Right, that’s amazon. This device will “clean the bacterial build-up, food debris, fungi, and dead cells from the surface of the tongue” (source). YUMMY! That’s why you want to spit it out – and not swallow…