Igrew up in simpler times, in the town of Mira Road, a place that merely existed as a banter point on whether it was a part of Thane or Mumbai. Mira Road received water at the same frequency I got a beating from my mom, i.e., once every three days. Plus, my forefathers came from Kutch. Clearly, my family was attracted to places with water problems the same way United States foreign policy is attracted to places with oil.
Water was so precious to us, that our minds went into Marwari mode when it came to spending it. Showers were alien to us, and the only accessories in our 4×4 bathroom were a red bucket and a blue mug. In Mira Road, water was heated by my mom on a stove. In Kutch, on a chulha. Most kids my age received pocket money. I, instead, received half a bucket of water and could use it any way I wanted. And my only friend was a green Medimix bar.
Medmix was the superhero of the soap world. It was all the Avengers rolled into one. Not only was it a soap, it also doubled up as a shampoo and anything else that you wanted it to be. There was just one soap to rule them all and it was all you needed to get rid of “dhul, mitti, ya daag”.
Shampoos had not made a grand shiny entry into our lives. I wasn’t even familiar with the concept of shampoos until my early teens. Back in the day, my innocent mind would judge the quality of a soap based on how much foam it could generate, and Medimix was just nailing it.
In the hierarchy of soaps, Medimix was the standard of the time, the vanilla equivalent in the ice-cream pantheon. If you were the upper middle class, you could afford colourful Nirma bars endorsed by Sonali Bendre roaming with lions. And the really rich would go for milky white Dove, or at least that’s what my social barometer told me.
As my parents started climbing up the social ladder, my morning rituals started getting complex. The first to penetrate our tiny cabinet was the shampoo that came along with the soap, the original OnePlus One of the world. I rationalised the thought in my head, “Fair enough, the soap is for the body and the shampoo is for the head.” But it wasn’t going to end at that, was it? Capitalism was at its peak and you were bombarded with choices, whether you wanted them or not.
Soon the generic shampoo had a sibling – the straight-hair shampoo. My sister purchased a special thingamajig that promised her hair without waves and I was warned to stay six feet away from it. I was more worried about accidentally using her shampoo than popping a casual paracetamol.
My sister was not the only one falling for all this froth and farce. Dad switched to a hair-fall shampoo. I found it ironic, at first, that he believed he could fight the Gujarati genetics of a balding patch with a yellow fluid that looked like pus. Mom purchased one for keeping her hair “black and strong” (whatever that means) and before I realised it, there were twelve types of shampoos, eight types of conditioners, four types of gels, and six types of body washes overflowing from our humble sunmica cabinet.
Our changing tastes in shampoo called for a change in the cabinet – the only bit of renovation our one BHK apartment has seen. Today the shampoo cabinet is overpowering the shoe cabinet, and we’re considering a menu to keep track of what’s what.
Now every time I go for a bath, it feels like I’ve entered an examination hall of cosmetic care. The other day, I spotted a “Lux Strawberry and Cream Silky Shampoo”, which caused a minor existential meltdown. Is that meant to be eaten or to be used on the hair? What if I use a shampoo that is not for my hair type? Will I ruin it forever? I don’t want to end up like Donald Trump. What are the steps to be followed? Is it soap first, then shampoo, and then conditioner? How much time do you have to wait between using the two products? What if you mistakenly use the conditioner before the shampoo? Will I have to spend a minimum of 45 minutes in the shower? Am I even allowed to use Halo, which is an egg-nourishing shampoo? I’m a vegetarian, what does the Gita have to say about this?
I needn’t have worried so much.
Eventually, it took me only a few days of getting used to when I finally succumbed. Yesterday, I was all set for my luxurious Sunday shower – body wash, shampoo, and conditioner all lined up… when the tap ran dry. I’d to make do with half a bucket of water and frantically started searching for my beloved Medimix. Sadly, it had already been replaced by some fancy bottle of gunk.