Scent of a woman
While lunching with friends, I told the restaurant owner to make the food non spicy as our guests were from Mauritius. He got so excited and said that in his young days, the 'Deos' used to come from Mauritius in the night. The consignment came in suitcases and all the boys were crazy about them. Our guests asked them politely what he meant by Deo. Deo is the colloquial term for deodorants. The restaurant owner was happy as Mauritius brought back so many memories of his youth.
For thousands of years I did not know the difference between a deodorants, perfumes or an After shave. We did not get International foreign perfumes in India. We, in Dhanbad, called the perfume as "Scent" . It was always referred to as 'Scent ka bottle' . Relatives and friends going abroad would bring "scent bottles' for us. It was one per family. I did not know male and female perfumes. In some cases, the entire family splashed themselves with the same 'scent'. Old Spice with its red bottle was the hep most perfume bottle I had seen. Actually it was an after shave lotion. It was like an astringent. One used it for cuts we got from playing outdoors. I remember my Aunt applying it for me when I had a fall in the bathroom. Me and my cousin had put soap on the bathroom floor and we were sliding with the shower on. One unrestrained slide had a bit of the white bathroom tile on my knee. Old Spice really used to sting and that is how I remember it.
This craze for foreign perfumes was big for all of us in our growing up years. Feminine perfumes were supposed to smell of Rose or Vanilla. I remember having a perfume called Tea Rose and using it for some time. Once it was a fake one and it had a weird stink. I think that is when I learnt to differentiate between real and fake perfumes. Though even now, I don't distinguish between real and fake people that well. In Calcutta of our days, there was an entire market selling imported goods like Tiger Balm, Face masks, perfumes, Shampoos and tape recorders and electronic watches. Nepal was the only foreign country I had been to. Nepal was a haven for foreign goods. Whoever visited Nepal used to come back with so much of the foreign stuff. We called it ' Imported'. It meant it was manufactured abroad . It was actually not 'imported' but smuggled into India. We all had a big craze of 'imported goods'. When I came to Mumbai, lot of hostel girls' parents worked for Air India and had so much Imported stuff. Then the girls from South east Asia had some amazing beauty products which I had never seen like a lip balm and a foot cream. I definitely felt like a 'have not' when I saw those things. No, I did not take up arms or pelt stones at anyone to remove my annoyance or aggression.
In Jharia, there used to be an Uncle from Calcutta, who used to come with a black briefcase. He would show the perfume bottles to us. All brand names were pronounced in a strictly Gujju way. Who knew French in Dhanbad in those days? If the Uncle visited you first after getting off the railway station, you were lucky as you could see a larger stock of perfumes. They all talked about 'Customs' and said this 'Maal' has come last night. Customs was some authority figure is how my young mind comprehended it. Then they talked of Port and Docks. I know our first TV was a Sony and it had come and was picked up straight from the docks. I shudder to think of the line of corruption in getting all that. The Sony TV was said in one breath. As if Sony was TV and TV was Sony. People talked of watching Chhaya Geet on their Sony TV. If someone praised the colours on our Sony TV, I would feel really proud. As proud as I would feel if they called me fair. But alas, no one ever called me fair. I have heard relatives and friends telling my Mother, 'Hai Hai, Nalini, you and Bharat are so fair! The unsaid was what hurt.