These Poor Women Were Helpless Against Generational OCD

Within a few days of marriage, I realized that the four female of the house – my husband’s mother, sister and two maternal aunts, were struck by what psychiatrists term Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.

Nearly thirty years ago as a girl in her mid-twenties, her eyes full of dreams, I had entered that strange unfamiliar household. Within a few days, I realized that the four female inmates of the house – my husband’s mother, sister and two maternal aunts–were struck by what psychiatrists term Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.

In such circumstances, the person in question feels driven to do something repetitively such as handwashing/cleaning, checking on things, mental counting and calculating et al. These activities become hurdles in the afflicted individual’s daily activities and more importantly social interactions.

Fear is the root cause

In the daily lives of ordinary people like us, the commonest symptoms of this phenomenon are fear of getting dirty or unclean (by mud, dust, sand), contamination by germs bacteria viruses etc or polluted environment (fumes, factory effluents gas leaks); fear of being deprived, duped, harmed (oneself or near and dear ones) over-anxious about something that is not complete, undue concern with order, symmetry, and precision.

And in extreme cases, the constant repetition of tasks may consume an entire day, with other regular chores taking a backseat.

Cleanliness was a must in this family

In the case of my in-laws, they had a strong fetish for cleanliness. Whenever we had guests, after they had departed, one out of the foursome would wash the door handles and knobs. They would wipe the foam/leather with a damp swab.

Be it the pizza or courier boy, newspaper or cable guys, milkman or janitor, the moment anyone handed them some coins/loose change, these would be forthwith vigorously rinsed in the kitchen sink or the wash basin, dried, and only then put in the purse or box.

Each time one or the other of the blessed ladies passed by the dining table they would wet their palms from a jug or bottle of water and wipe the table-top even if it was squeaky clean!

Telephones need to be wiped!

In case a stranger or an undesirable individual (including me) used the telephone placed in the living room, at the earliest opportunity the phone would again be rubbed with a wet cloth! Back then, mobile phones had not made their appearance. So one can well imagine my predicament.

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Five weeks into the wedlock, we had gone on a honeymoon-cum-editorial assignment to the picturesque Neemrana Fort resort near Jaipur. Upon our return, my sister-in-law got hold of our moulded plastic VIP suitcase and cleaned it thoroughly with detergent soap water!

Why? Because it had travelled so many kilometres and got “dirty” in the process.

Now for the quirkiest part: if you had an upset tummy, diarrhoea or dysentery, or just had a dump, a complete bath was mandatory – thunder, lightning or rain, cold wintry night, or chilly morning notwithstanding.

Honestly, this used to be a practice among Bengalis of yore.

Thanks to the universe, these practices are near obsolete

In modern times, it has become near obsolete.  I wonder how this handful of females managed to cling to this archaic practice for so long. Wearing fresh new clothes wasn’t okay; it was bath, bath and bath all the way.

Since I tend to catch a cold rather easily, I was unable to comply. As a penalty, I was banished from cooking in the kitchen as well as from the prayer room for good!

I must conclude on a pensive note that the foursome have, since, gone away to a better world. In retrospect, I feel pity mingled with compassion for them; come to think of it, what a dismal life they led, slave to a “nasty” fixation.

Image source: Hamro Jatra, free and edited on CanvaPro

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Am a trained and experienced features writer with 30 plus years of experience .My favourite subjects are women's issues, food travel, art,culture ,literature et all.Am a true feminist at heart. An iconoclast read more...

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