By: Duane L. Herrmann
My name is Marut, the same as the god of the wind, and my family name is Jafari, which is Sanskrit and means little stream. My father said that, once upon a time, our family lived next to a small stream, but that was generations ago.
I am seventy-five years old and remember when I had just arrived in my new country. That was over fifty years ago. I had been working as a mathematician and felt a need to see more of the world. My older brother urged me to do go before I was married. He was to be married soon, then it would be my turn. He could not leave, he had to take over the family business. He urged me to leave, so finally I did.
I had just arrived at the university in America where I was to take classes and get credentials for working in my new country, the first lecture was to begin in an hour. I had been told I could rest and skip that first lecture, but this was the reason I had traveled half way around the world. I was just barely in time and didn’t want to miss it.
But I was dirty. In all that three days traveling, I had not been able to bathe or change clothes. I could barely stand myself. There was a communal shower down the hall from my room in the dormitory.
I had been given a towel and washcloth, so I went to the shower room. After I had undressed down to my dhoti in the outer room, I opened the curtain to the shower room and stood in shocked surprise. There, in the showers, were three young men totally naked!
I quickly shut the curtain and turned around.
What was I to do?
I had seen other naked men before. There were the sky clad holy men, but there were few of them and they didn’t interact with society. Their renunciation of the world was complete. You respected them, but you didn’t interact with them. You might give them an offering of food, but that was an act of devotion.
There were statues of Lord Krishna, but he was a god, and his skin is blue. He was certainly not a mortal. Though he was often depicted naked, he was a god to be worshiped, not a human to interact with.
And there were the temple carvings, but I didn’t worship at those temples, so they were not part of my life.
I had made use of public bath houses, but they were very different from this. You entered and paid the fee. The men and boys went to one side, the women and girls to the other. You went into the undressing room where you hung up your clothes, except for your dhoti. When you were ready, you went to the attendant who gave you a towel, washcloth and bowl of clean warm water. You took those to the bathing room which had benches around the walls, or sometimes, cubicles with benches. The benches were long enough to set the bowl of water and sit beside it to clean yourself. The last part you cleaned was under you dhoti, but you never took it off. One kept it on at all times.
Here, the men were totally naked, wearing nothing at all!
Before I could decide what to do, an Iranian came into the room. He must have been a fellow student and I was relieved. I knew Iranians were even more modest than my people. I remarked on my arrival and the newness of the place and was sure he would remark on how he handled this new and immodest shower situation.
To my surprise, he casually took off ALL his clothes – and went into the showers with the other naked men!
He must not be so new here, I concluded.
Time was running out. The lecture would start in minutes. If I was going to get clean, and not miss the lecture, I had to decide what to do.
Duane L. Herrmann, a reluctant carbon-based life-form, was surprised to find himself in 1951 on a farm in Kansas. He’s still trying to make sense of it but has grown fond of grass waving in the wind, trees and the enchantment of moonlight. He aspires to be a hermit, but would miss his children, grandchildren and a few friends. His work has been published in many real places and online, even some of both in languages he can’t read (English is difficult enough!). He is known to carry baby kittens in his mouth, pet snakes, and converse with owls, but is careful not to anger them! All this, despite a traumatic, abusive childhood embellished with dyslexia, ADHD (both unknown at the time), cyclothymia, and now, PTSD. He’s still learning to breathe and perform human at the same time.