Monday, November 30, 2009


The other day I was looking at some communication for Yardley Soaps, and I was struck by the irony of the quaint, ye-olde-English nineteeth-century Yardley brand being bought over by the tech-hep 21st century Wipro. But then, big-business reality is often stranger than soap-opera fiction.

I tried to recall the soaps which we used as children. Lux is still very much around, although, the stars endorsing it have changed from Hema Malini to Aishwarya, with even a Shahrukh Khan in a rose-filled bathtub (shudder!!) in between. But I prefer a gracefully-ageing Hema to a nauseously-simpering SRK any day.
Liril is a soap which has fared better, I feel, and its lemony zingy appeal is quite fresh, especially during the long, sweaty summer. Even Cinthol’s deo-range, despite the masculine magnetism of Hrithik Roshan, does not compare.

But Rexona has disappeared. While the standard pink Lux was the staple soap in our home, the green Rexona regularly graced the soapdish in my Mamabaris (mother’s maternal home) bathroom. It was a very ordinary soap, leaving the skin woefully dry in winter, but I have fond memories of Rexona just because of the Mamabari-connect.

In summer, when sweat, itching and prickly heat attacked, Maa would sometimes get the green medicinal Margo neem soap. And though the bubbles would taste bitter if they somehow entered my mouth, Margo enjoyed a sanctified status as a "GOOD SOAP WHICH CLEANSED AND CURED", so we never complained.

My especial favourite were Lavender Dew and Mysore Sandal, because they were special-occasion soaps bought during festive-seasons and suchlike. And because they had such lovely lingering fragrances. Lavender Dew, delicately mauve-coloured, smelling of gentle lavender, is now only a faint memory, but Mysore Sandal, with the more aggressive, exotic sandal-scent is still available, enduring where the former has evaporated.

There was the big and spherical Moti, which looked like a monster-pearl and which always slipped out of my grasp when I was a small girl. But it was a costly affair and lasted a very long time, which is probably why my Chhotopishi (father’s sister) seemed to favour it.

Winters, of course, were for glycerine soaps – the pure and tranparent Pears for the more affluent homes, and the murkier Chasme Glycerin for modest homes like ours.

And now, although I love my Dove and my Nivea and other post-thirty necessities, sometimes I wish I could get back those lavender and sandal days when the skin was younger and the soap seemed gentler.


Monday, November 9, 2009


During school vacations, sometimes my father would suddenly have the urge to go on morning walks with me and my brother. Ma (mother) would wake us all up at some unearthly hour, get us suitably attired (depending, of course, on the weather - it was sacrilege to step out in winter without being bundled up in sweaters and scarves), give us a Marie Biscuit each, and push us out of the house before, I suspect, going back to a blissfully peaceful snooze.

Half-reluctant, half-awake, rubbing sleep out of our eyes, we would stumble out, weaving through the nearly-empty roads in our neighbourhood, under the guidance of our enthusiastic leader, Baba (father).

As we left the crowd of houses behind, the gradually brightening sky showed us the way to greener fields and the banks of the Ganga. Baba always wanted to reach the riverbank - a good half-an-hour's walk from our house - to catch the sunrise over the placid Ganga's horizon. Our senses awakened to the chirruping Good Mornings of the birds and the fresh wetness of dew brushing against our legs. Masses of flowers bent over trees and hedges and tickled our noses with their scents - shiuli, rajanigandha, kamini, beli. It was, to understate, a nice way to way up all our senses.

And the high point was flopping down, all huffed-and-puffed, on the banks of the brown river, feeling the cool breeze wipe off the sweat from our faces, and lifting our eyes to watch the sun paint the eastern sky with an amazing palette of red-orange-gold-pink. The Ganga, a great imitator, would reflect whatever the sun drew on the sky, adding millions of tiny silver ripples for special effects. And a few early morning braveheart-bathers, sun-worshippers and Ganga-devotees, would step into this colour-play in the water to take their daily dip in the holy river.

While going back, we would stop at some riverside tea-stall for locally-made toast-biscuits and Baba would have a cup of tea - the first of his daily dozen-or-more.

No birdsong. No sunrise. Maybe they happen, but morning-walkers hardly notice. They hear the latest tracks on their earphones, and see only a focussed vision of six-packs or size-zero.

And if I thought that the self was made of the mind, body and soul, then of course, I was wrong. Only the body matters, at least while morning-walking.