Sense and senseAbility - 3.2 Touch
-- Remigius de Souza
Sense of Touch is attributed to the skin.
Senses and SenseAbility are important for our personal and social health, in fact, all the four aspects – Work, Leisure, Education and Health – for our survival (survival means, said J Krishnamurthy, living sanely).
In the blind the other senses are highly active and enhanced. Their sense of touch works in the feet even while wearing shoes, not only hands, and cane.
In the growth of babies, emphasised Margaret Mead, anthropologist, in her famous book, ‘Coming of Age in Samoa’, it is important to hold them close. Among the young from their infancy, their senses are alert and highly active. In the course of time, their senses and creative ability are stunted by the contemporary education here in India. Even the educated parents are hardly aware of what is happening.
As we know the skin is the organ largest in area. It is also the youngest as the body continues to shed the skin until last. When one gets a fever – say, malaria fever or love-fever – the skin is an indicator.
It is not only the nose, the skin also breaths, and protects us. (Buchanan mentions there are millions of microbes on our skin as well as in the gut.) Hence we call the clothes, a second skin, and house is the third skin of man – both are expected to breath (particularly in the tropical climate0 and protect. Well, whatever may be the result of synthetic fibres and, and the houses with sick building syndrome!
The touch is the first sense that we experience in our mother’s womb that is oceanic. There is tradition among Indic people. They wrap newly born baby in soft cotton linen, which is mother’s recycled sari. The mother and the infant/s stay in confinement room that is dark. Modern gynaecologists may differ, though!
Touch obviously reminds us of the Untouchables in India (see: A tale of a scavenger in India). It continues in spite of efforts by the most revered saints of India across the country for centuries and in modern times by several social reformers: they could not eradicate this obnoxious distinction.
In very recent times, the young Indian elite had been holding agitations and campaigning against the reservation for the untouchables (official term is Scheduled Castes) in educational institutions and jobs in the name of equality. Perhaps they did not check the worth of this British-made education? The atrocities on the untouchables in various forms sometimes result in killings, house burning, rape, and physical assaults.
Another class of untouchables is the women when in menstrual cycle. Though it is less due to contact with the urbanised, the women do not enter the places of worship and the temples. Traditionally they suppose to ‘sit out’ i.e. do not cook, not even enter the kitchen, and touch to any person, and actually sit in out side veranda. The orthodox families and those who perform religious rites and rituals and magic – Mantra-Tantra, and those who practice traditional medicines strictly observe this custom. Perhaps it may continue for unknown time.
I would not judge, like or dislike, or accept or reject any of these issues, but prefer to examine in historical, social and scientific context, keeping aside what the western societies believe or approve of.
Until now what I understand that both the classes of untouchables originally were service classes in the civilised Indic societies. In the course of time, as population increased, the high castes and men, to keep their power, attached the stigma upon them as untouchable. Perhaps the original context of the rites and rituals and customs were lost and got distorted in the course of time.
We, however, can’t ignore a fact that society, which refuses to evolve, which remains stagnant like water in a pond, stinks. Do such things happen in the Industrial Society, which would lead it to decadence? Or has the decay already begun?
© Remigius de Souza., all rights reserved.