I came out of the restroom one day in office, and just when I was exiting, I washed my lips, or rather I made them wet. For a moment, I stopped in my tracks and wondered why. The next shocking revelation was that I had been doing this for as long as I could remember! I mean, it had almost become habitual for me to wet my lips when I was exiting the bathroom. Almost like - I would as if feel I am walking out of the bathroom naked if I didn't wet my lips. Or the other way round, if ever someone saw me coming out of the bathroom with my lips un-wet, I would get caught.And there, incidentally, lay the answer to my unusual habit...
Back in my childhood days, I used to visit my maternal granma's house for summer holidays. During those times, the houses were designed in such a way that the toilets and bathrooms were outside of the main house. Which means, you had to get out of the back door of the house (if the house was big enough), walk a few steps and you can then enter the toilet. In case the house was small and there was only one door, still, the toilet was away. No matter what, the ablutions could not be carried out under the same roof as where you ate and slept and did pooja, etc. So, in the dead of the night, if you wanted to relieve yourself, yes - you had to open the door, go out in the dark amidst cockroaches, lizards and other-what-nots (thieves included!) and come back in quickly cursing why your bladder was incapable of holding up till daylight. And in case it was raining, God save you.
Despite all this, toilet inside the house was a strict no-no. In fact, this at that time was a 'modern' house. Because a majority of Indians (which was rural then) did not even have a dedicated toilet or bathroom, and Nature was where everything happened. Now compare this to the current generation where we have a bathroom every few steps. Each bedroom will have a bathroom in addition to the common bathroom which is closest to the living room.
But of course, I believe there was some science behind how the houses of the previous century was constructed in India. Daily ablutions purges the body system from all possible toxins, unwanted bacteria and viruses. The complete set of wastes in our body gets thrown out. The obnoxiousness in the air associated to such wastes obviously needs to be far off from the other parts of the house where we usually spend our time during the day. In fact, the outhouse-kind of toilets did not even have roof or shelter so that there is lot of free air flow to eradicate the obnoxiousness. But nowadays we are stuck inside a small bathroom, completely packed like a matchbox and totally relying on even small exhaust fan to suck out that air.
And not just that, we spend a lot of time in that same toilet thanks to the "ingenious" new design of bathrooms containing wash-basin (toothbrush), mirror (make-up, grooming, shaving), shower (bath), etc. in addition to the water-closet. Oh, add some more time - I forgot to mention the mobile phone! No wonder, it would seem, diseases for humans are ever increasing, newer and newer hospitals are sprouting up in every corner of the society, more and more pharmacy stores, etc. Such did not seem to be the case with a typical 'Indian lifestyle' back then.
But lets get back to the topic now. So, my mother's mother was a strict authoritarian. What she says, has to happen. So she made me cultivate a habit of washing my mouth (yes, like how you do when you brush your teeth with mouthful of water, roll it around and spit) every time I came out of the bathroom. I guess she rightly felt that the foul, disease-filled air inside the bathroom (despite being far away) would somehow get into the mouth and hence one had to wash the insides of the mouth whenever one exited. This is personal hygiene taking many notches beyond imagination.
For me, it just didn't make any sense back then as to why I should wash my mouth (of all places) when I relieved myself. So I used to happily ignore my granma and come out, but she would rebuke me to a great extent and, worse, she used to make me go back in and get it done. And so I invented this ingenious way of making my lips wet so that when she saw me coming out of the bathroom, she would know that I have washed my mouth! Ta-da!! And that's how this tradition of mine started. It then became so much of a routine that even when I now go to bathroom just to wash my feet, still I will exit with making my lips wet! The subconsciousness habit of mine will ensure that my dead granma even if she sees me now exiting a bathroom will still think that I have washed my mouth! Strangest thing is that I never realized this strange of habit of mine until now, and used to blindly do for the last 35+ years!!
So next time if you see my lips wet when I am exiting a bathroom, you know the story...!