Today I am starting a new series on my blog called 'Ubiquitous India', which will be about everyday objects and actions that you commonly see in India, but perhaps you wouldn't notice unless you are an outsider. Like me.
I have already written several posts about sights that amuse or befuddle me. For example, about the men who sleep anytime, anywhere, any place; about people hanging off vehicles on dangerous roads; about the marvellous uniforms of India's schoolchildren; or the handcart men of Mumbai - who toil in the heat of the traffic to make deliveries across the city. The first subject of my formalised series is 'The Squat'.
The Squat - the seating position of many a working class man or woman - is a wonder to behold. It's not just about bending down for a few seconds to pick something off the floor or to speak to a toddler. No, it's a lifestyle choice. The squat is about getting right down and resting those haunches on the back of the calves. Almost with one's bottom on the floor. And for very long periods of time.
It looks painful to me - but for the majority who take part in squatting, it is seemingly the most comfortable mode of seating in the absence of a chair or stool. Squatters can do anything in that position. They can just be lounging around, watching the world go by; they can be eating food (alone or in squatting groups); they can be performing daily household tasks such as washing and cooking. People can even do their jobs and earn a wage on their haunches.
Interestingly, if you were to look up 'Indian Squat' on Google, you will find that the Squat is considered one of the best exercises for strengthening the lower body. Of course this involves bending down and back up again in quick succession - perhaps with the addition of weights. 'Hindu Squats' or bethaks have been used by Indian wrestlers for centuries to improve lower body strength, speed and endurance. For anyone trying to rest on their haunches and get up again who is not used to it - it is extremely difficult (just try it!). You sure do need excellent strength in your thighs to be a good squatter (perhaps I am just feeling my age).
|Matt Furey strains to do a 'Hindu Squat'|
Let us not forget the Squat Toilet as well. The thing that puts the fear of god into all of us westerners. If you don't get your squat right....you'll need a cloth.
The Squat is such a common part of Indian daily life, that I haven't even had to go out and take special photos of people in the crouching position. All I had to do was rifle through my photo archive to find what I needed.
Here you go:
|A Saddhu in Varanasi washing his clothing on the banks of the Ganges (just noticed his odd shoes!)|
|A builder squatting on the top of a construction site opposite our building.|
|Children crouching whilst putting their kites together on Juhu beach|
|A Dabbawala squats to have a break|
|Aarey Milk Colony - a farmworker...makes bricks out of cowdung|
|Aarey Milk Colony|
|A construction worker at a building site|
|People sorting their washing on Carter Road, Bandra|
|Above and below: two men repair fishing nets at Sassoon Docks.|
|Thanks to reader Stefanie VB for sending in this photo of a guy teetering on the|
edge of this wall - in a very fine squat pose!
Follow this link for a humorous hints on how to squat properly: http://www.marksdailyapple.com/how-to-squat-properly/#axzz2npcrnrcn
Please do come back for more Ubiquitous India insights!