Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Brands Back Home

Was reading Santosh Desai's Mother Pious Lady- fantastic read that transported me back to the days of pickles, postcards and inland letters hung from wires, my Army classmates from Lekhapani. And in that journey, I also remembered some of the other brands that made life what it was when we were young. Back home in the 70s and the 80s.

1. Dalda - Ma called it Vanaspati. The yellow plastic with the green cap stood in its place of prominence on the kitchen shelf. The karais always had a white residue which Ma carefully covered up after the morning puris on Sunday were fried. The next time she had something to sizzle again, out came the karai and we would watch fascinated as the white orb melted into a golden bubbling oil, ready to brown whatever came into its boiling mass.

2. Dettol- Till I turned fifteen, I always thought Dettol was white. That's because my father, as I learnt years later, would carefully dilute the Dettol in an old Dettol bottle and kept it ready to swab his nicks and cuts during his morning shave. Graze on knee, nick with the kitchen knife, the water used for swabbing the wooden floors- everything had the white liquid with its nice hospital like smell.

3. Bata- The Bata managers were always friends with father and mother. I used to wonder how every new manager spoke with the same familiarity and knew our names, our classes and when school would open after holidays. School days meant black shoes with buckles during the week, white canvas shoes for the games classes and PT. Ma wore Sandak in the rains and later on, even bought an "expensive" Marie Claire. Father always had his black leather shoes- he wore them to work, for shopping, to the Club, to social visits- everywhere. And then of course, were our Hawai chappals- four pairs- one each for father, ma, my sister and me. If the straps gave way, we simply replaced them and wore them till our toe left dark blue imprints that bore deep into the off white rubber.

It was only when I joined advertising and proudly walked into Bata- my first account, that I realised that Bata was an MNC and not a homegrown Indian brand.

4. Lux- Ma always always used Lux soap.She was very particular about her soap, would keep it in a separate case and we were forbidden to ever use it. We had our Pears but I always wanted to use ma's Lux - I thought her beautiful complexion was because of Lux and was very petulant whenever she sensed that I may used it and warned me. Later on she told me that she wanted our skin to be innocent like Pears. I would have preferred beauty anyday.

5. Fryums- Fryums tatums... remember the jingle clearly. Ever since Fryums were invented, the papads found their way into our palate and we demanded Fryums every evening after play.

6. Iodex- reminds me of ma rubbing the dark gel on father's back whenever he had a backache. And of father rubbing ma's shoulders with it once in a while when she was tired. Of me rubbing Iodex on ma's back years later when we were alone and more than a backache, she longed for some comfort. Iodex was all I could manage and was a faithful ally for years to come.

7.Horlicks- how can someone from the east not grow up on Horlicks. Was a must every morning, was there when we were ill, was made for my grandmother when she was too old to eat solids, was there when my sister and I generally felt like having a spoonful. Still love it.

8.Brown and Polson Custard Powder- Ma's dessert. Served up without fail after every dinner invite, when the guests were full of mutton curry, dal, baigan fries and chutneys. Ma would make the thick yellow custard in a glass bowl which was an old British legacy and part of our Digboi Bungalow. That bowl was used only for custard. Ma would then chop red cherries and biscuit crumbs and put it away carefully in the freezer, warning us not to scoop in our fingers. Later on ma experimented with the pink strawberry and the offwhite vanilla, but the classic yellow was my favourite.

9.Mustard Oil- sorry this is not a brand but I can't not write about it. Used for cooking,for dressing in mashed potatoes with green chillies, as conditioner for dry skin in winter, as a nose rub when we had colds. Ma would heat up some mustard oil, with chopped garlic, rub the warm oil on us, and cover us up with a blanket and a kiss on our forehead. Nowadays I use it only for the evening prayer diya and to fry fish at times. Miss its pungent smell and the love that came with it.

10.Ambassador- the old faithful. Father had an old white one- second hand- AS 9321. The car was always having a puncture or a heated engine on our drives to Jorhat and Dibrugarh. But was always with us for 8 years, till father passed away and ma had to sell it off. It was like an old family member being ruthlessly sold off and we all had tears in our eyes.

With time, we are now spoilt for choice. We have the best brands we can ask for , and we have forged new relationships. I have also moved on. To newer bonds. But whenever I slip back into time, these old faithfuls haunt me pleasantly with memories that can never be replaced.


  1. One word to describe it. Nostaliga!!!! Thanks for making me feel young. Ha ha ha

  2. took me back to digboi and the bata dukan for my school shoes in new market and kanhai da and all those millions of shops in new market, our first maruti 800 in silchar straight from Mumbai MXY 1947, stayed with us for over 10 yrs.. oh those days.. :) it's fun reading your blog..