Monday, March 22, 2010


I am working on some communication for a fairness cream for men. And the research team has just unpacked a huge carton full of various cosmetic products solely dedicated to men's skinare. Face-washes, scrubs, anti-tanning lotions, post-sun-exposure gels, face-packs and, of course, fairness creams, all dedicated to the male peacocks of the species. A fascinating and bewildering plethora of pseudo-scientific-sounding stuff!

Back in the old days, I remember that my Baba (father) and Jethun (uncle) used to feel that a shave by the naapit (barber) when he came to out house every Sunday was the very epitome of luxury. And when he used to wipe their faces with water in which a piece of fatkiri (alum) had been soaked (for its antiseptic/astringent qualities), my Father's generation used to regard that as 'intensive, personalised skincare for men'. Quite the equivalent to a male-facial at a spa, probably.

And then when my Dadabhai (cousin brother) and Mama (mother's brother, who's younger by a decade) grew up, got jobs and got married, the ultimate in male luxury was to splash/spray on some aftershave after their daily bout with the razor. And the in-vogue stuff was OLD SPICE, with its distinctive red or white bottle and its special woody smell. For my teenage romantic dreams, the knight on a white charger always had to smell of Old Spice. And he would usually come, not riding an antiquated horse, but riding the waves on a surfboard like the rough-n-tough guy in the Old Spice TV-commercial that tugged at our hearts and hormones for years!

And then came Old Spice Fresh Lime, and Old Spice Musk. Things began to get complicated. And then arrived Brut and Denim and Aramis and a whole lot of other names. And a whole lot of other stuff to put on male faces. And goop for hair. And manicures and pedicures. A whole deluge of products and services and websites and salons and even magazines dedicated to promoting and maintaining male vanity. The metrosexual man is sure spoilt for choice.

Maybe men got clear skin. But they lost clear-mindedness. And got completely mind-boggled. Cosmetic-confusion, which was once the prerogative of women bombarded by over-information about beauty products, became the man's lot also. That's what gender-equality is all about, right?


Thursday, March 4, 2010


My two teddy-bear-cubs (my daughters) go to school in a big yellow school-bus. In fact, when the younger one went to play-school, which was just around the corner, she refused to accept that it was a PROPER SCHOOL. Because there was no sunny yellow school bus full of bright, chattering children to take her there.

Neither had we. We went to school in a rickety cycle-rickshaw. Our school-special rickshaw was value-added with a narrow wooden bench tied carefully to the back of the driver's seat. This way, it could carry many more children than it would have done unadorned! The rickshaw can carry two people in relative - if rather bumpy - comfort. With the added bench, it was made to carry 7-8 children. I've tried to re-create the engineering in my mind, but the mind BOGGLES (I'm currently immersed in the world of Jeeves, so I just had to put in that word) at the effort.

Our rickshaw-driver an affable gent called, for some unfathomable reason, Jamaibabu (son-in-law). Every morning, at around eight, the punctual Jamaibabu would come ponk-ponking the rickshaw horn at our gate. Rushing out, my brother and I would hop on to the coir-cushioned back-rest-ed seats. As our house was the first place Jamaibabu halted at, it was rather easy for us to get the best seats, which we ruthlessly refused to move away from, even if the others requested.

Jamaibabu pulled the rickshaw - with the familiar kaanch-konch sound of the three wheels turning - along the winding lanes, halting at other houses and picking up...Dipto and Rumni from their mansion with the flower-fragrant garden, Bapi from the dilapidated rented house, another very formal-looking child (whom we called Mr Gon, because he carried a tin suitcase with MR. S. GON printed on it; he was always late as his mother pleaded and pestered him to finish his glass of milk), and my cousin J and her brother.

The seats filled up fast and we sat face-to-face, three in the original rickshaw seat and five clinging like limpets to the narrow wooden bench. Knees knocked together and bags knocked over others' as Jamaibabu hit the pedal hard (we always blamed the tardy Mr Gon and his hapless mother for this). Fights sometimes erupted, but even without arguing, our decibel level was pretty high. The genial Jamaibabu would sometimes turn his head to admonish us, making the rickshaw wobble scarily. The kaanch-konch of the wheels increased as the rickshaw bumped and bounced its way to Modern School like an overloaded ark full of chattering, chirpy children. Although Jamaibabu had probably never heard of time-management, we were almost never late.

And in the afternoon, the rickshaw would return, bursting at the seams with rather exhausted but still noisy children. Bagging seats was a free-for-all, and getting a good seat (which somehow was more important on the return journey, maybe our tender bottoms were sore after all that sitting around) meant making a dash from the school-gate to the waiting rickshaw. As Jamaibabu shooed us on and hustle-pedalled his way home, the discomfort became negligible in the delight of chatter-boxing!