Kids Corner

Kailash outside his house with wife Kalavati Devi, 60; his daughters Pooja, 16, Neetu, 25, and Baby, 35; and grandchildren, Shradha, 8 months, and grandson Mohit, 12. Photos, courtesy: Richard Grange, Barcroft India.


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It is not an achievement that can readily be savoured by his nearest and dearest.

But Kailash - [his full name is Guru Kailash Singh, but he is a Hindu, not a Sikh] - has as good a claim as any to the accolade of world's smelliest man - after refusing to wash for more than 37 years.

Kailash, 65, has not bathed or cut his 6ft-long dreadlocks since 1974, shortly after he married.

Explaining his unconventional decision, Kailas claimed a priest guaranteed him a much-prized son and heir if he followed the advice.

Despite neighbours joking, the sweaty farmer would be lucky to persuade his wife to have any children at all.

His religious guidance clearly failed - he has seven daughters.

Kailash spends his days tending cows in 47C heat, yet the only 'cleansing' he does allow himself is a 'fire bath' each evening, which involves smoking marijuana, praying to the Hindu Lord Shiva and dancing around a bonfire.

His long-suffering family admit they did once try to force him into a stream.

'He fought us off and ran away,' said wife Kalavati Devi, 60. 'We've tried several times since to force him to have a shower but he puts up such a fuss.

'He says he'd rather die than take a bath and only a son could change his mind. It has been so many years now I've got used to it.'

His wife even threatened to stop sleeping with him if he didn't bathe, but she gave in first, insisting she should be loyal and put up with the stench.

The father-of-seven spends all day working up a sweat tending cows and working in his fields near the Hindu holy city of Varanasi, on the banks of the River Ganges, where temperatures regularly top 47C.

He admits neighbours in the rural village of Chatav make fun of him but said he is following god's will.

'Children tease and shout that I don't wash when I ride my bicycle through the village,' he said. 'There are many people who have a poor character that mock me for not washing. They do not understand my decision but I will not change my mind as it is god's choice, not mine.

'My wife doesn't like it either but she must bear all the hardships I have to bear. Besides, I take a fire bath in the evenings and that gets rid of all the sweat.'

Kailash's wife claims she has tried everything to make her smelly husband clean up his act without success.

'I abused him and started crying when he told me about his senseless decision,' she said. 'I even threatened to stop sleeping with him but he is my husband, so there was little I could do about it.'

Youngest daughter Pooja, 16, even says her father's strange decision has made her more popular.

'My schoolmates are curious to see and meet my papa,' she said. 'They keep asking me how he can live for so many years without washing and want to see for themselves.

'Earlier I would be angry but there's nothing we can do as he doesn't listen to anyone.

'In this hot summer I want to shower at least twice a day but he doesn't want to take even one. I don't know how he manages to live.'

The only contact with water Kailash has is to wash his mouth and hands.

'I have no son, so I will never wash again,' he said. 'Maybe when I am born again, I will wash.'


June 25, 2011


Conversation about this article

1: Roop (Reigate, United Kingdom ), June 25, 2011, 11:04 AM.

Pathetic. I have decided the next Punjabi novel I am going to write about is women's rights and fools like this one. God in Sikhism is parmatma. The Mool Mantar suggests not the Semitic god but a life-force. Part of the nature of life force is that there are no solid gurantees; that is, nature will do what it will.

2: Nirvair Kaur (Wales), June 25, 2011, 2:54 PM.

Only in India, you say? Pity!

3: Bholi (Chandigarh, Punjab), June 25, 2011, 2:58 PM.

Well, you can't say God doesn't have a sense of humour.

4: Janardhan Prasad (Allahabad, U.P., India), June 26, 2011, 3:10 AM.

It appears that filth and dirt work like aphrodisiacs in India. Kailash didn't do too badly ... with seven children! And just look at our burgeoning population. It's worth research and study ... bet you there's a Nobel Prize in there somewhere in some science or the other. Ayurveda?

5: Gurdev Singh Bir (Columbus, Ohio, U.S.A.), June 27, 2011, 1:01 AM.

I wonder why he doesn't have moss, lichen or fungus growing where the light don't shine. But then, maybe even those life-forms can't stand the putrid smell. This shows how blind faith makes man do strange things. Pity that women's subordination has to put up with this imbecility.

6: Manjeet Shergill (Singapore), June 30, 2011, 7:38 AM.

i am surprised at the reactions to this article so far - to me this is the story of faith. To the wife, her husband is a god. A god can do whatever he fancies - smelly or not. She, as his devotee, will tolerate everything because her faith in her god is her spirituality. There are other worse situations of the human condition than being smelly. Kailash is a normal male person working to support his family and what he wants is just a son - not a Bentley or a visa to America.

7: R. Singh (Canada), July 06, 2011, 6:54 AM.

Manjeet Shergill ji, a 'son' is this man's Bentley, and will facilitate his ascension to heaven on his own death, according to the Hindu shastras. Desires, especially obsessive ones, not just non-Indian ones, cause a lot of discomfort for self and surroundings. A Bentley can at least be desired together; this is a case of exclusiveness, i.e. one person's desire running roughshod over everyone else's, even in the immediate family!

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