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Let's Talk About Soap

Discussion in 'Snippets of Life (Non-Fiction)' started by umaakumar, Oct 27, 2023.

  1. umaakumar

    umaakumar Gold IL'ite

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    THE SOAP

    Everyone today has a preference. It can be Dove for softer skin, Cinthol for glowing skin, Lifebuoy for athletes, and so on.

    When I was growing up, it was always Hamam. I come from a large family and the monthly provision list always had many Hamam soaps. Those were the days when our dictionary was missing the term “Privacy”. Most houses had only a common bathroom at the back of the house. The concept of an attached bathroom was still not prevalent. So also, the soap was a common one. Everyone used the same soap bar. Even our guests would use the same kept in our bathroom when visiting.

    The soap when it was used up and had become a small paper-like piece, my mom would replace it with a new bar. She would put this paper-thin soap onto the new one. It will fuse together. This was an economical practice. The idea was, why throw away the old soap when it can still be used?

    When my sisters became teenagers and started having discussions among friends and with the advent of TV, we started seeing ads for several soaps. Lux, where the leading actresses would endorse the brand; Liril, with the girl feeling fresh under the waterfalls. Our expectations and experiments started with my sisters demanding a new soap every month. When the new soap came in, the entire family used this. Once over it would be replaced with the Hamam and the thin soap stuck to it. Hamam was always green, lux was pink, and Liril was light green. We could see the pink stuck to the green till it vanished in a few days.

    Then we all grew up and got married. When I went to my husband's house, we had separate soaps. He would use Pears, and me, my humble Hamam (as old habits die hard, you see). This soap would last me close to 2 months and when I bought the new one the old one would be stuck to it. My husband noticing this called me a Kanjoos. He said that we buy soap once in two months and I still couldn’t get myself to throw away the paper-thin one. What was I saving by sticking it to the old one?

    Then came my daughter and her different soaps as she was growing up. She would try one each month. One for glow, then one for pimples, one for oily skin, one for fragrance, and the list goes on. Once the new soap arrives, she will promptly throw away the old one, whatever the size of it is. When her friends were visiting or staying with us the first thing, she would do is to examine my soap dish to see if there was anything stuck to it. She and my husband have made never-ending jokes about my habit. I turned a deaf ear.

    Then my daughter transitioned to being a mother and I was there to assist her. I carried my soap bar to the USA. Well, then my granddaughter turned three and when I gave her a bath she would ask for my soap. My soap was new to her from all the liquid soaps you get there. One day my soap was over, and I got the new one and as per my habit put the old one on top.

    My granddaughter on seeing this soap, started laughing and said, “Patti, it does not look nice, please break off this old soap and give me just the new one.” I too laughed and told my daughter, “See how genetic the thought on the soap economy is.”
     
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  2. MalStrom

    MalStrom IL Hall of Fame

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    This brings back so many memories.
    We were a Cinthol family and I can still remember the smell of the big green bars. But we also had a constant rotation of Liril, Pears and a neem soap whose name I forget. Mysore Sandal was reserved for special occasions.
    Then there were the traditionalists who adamantly clung to the oil bath routine with fragrant gram flour bath powder. We used to make fun of them and now big companies are selling this powder for high prices.
    On my last visit to Chennai I went to the Dabba Chetty shop in Kutchery Road and bought some herbal soaps that looked unassuming but were simply amazing when used. I have never taken to the body wash tradition. Even in the US I have always bought handmade soaps and I follow the same tradition of gluing the last bit to the new bar.
     
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  3. umaakumar

    umaakumar Gold IL'ite

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    Dear Malstrom,
    Thanks for being the first to reply.
    When I wrote this post, I was wondering if anyone did the same. I am glad I am not alone.
    Next time I go to Chennai I will try the herbal soaps from kutcheri road. Though I visit the USA often, I cannot get to use the liquid soaps. What a waste of plastic.

    Regards
    Uma
     
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  4. HariLakhera

    HariLakhera Platinum IL'ite

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    This may develop into a biography of each brand of bathing soap. There were equal numbers of washing soaps.
    Now all are available in liquid form.
    The only thing permanent is CHANGE.
     
  5. Thoughtful

    Thoughtful Gold IL'ite

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    Nice read, thank you for the anecdote.

    The old neem soap might be Margo.

    Though I am not big on liquid soaps, I think in America the bar soaps don't work well and causes dry skin ( particularly during winter months ). We then have to apply the cold moisturizer after a hot shower, the bar soap just doesn't seem to be worth it.

    However I once found Chandrika soap in a health food store and interestingly enough I found it doesn't cause dry skin.
     
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  6. Rihana

    Rihana Moderator Staff Member IL Hall of Fame

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    Lovely snippet, @umaakumar. Brought back so many memories.

    Adding a few names to the ones already mentioned, I remember Rexona was used at home for some years. We never liked it as it was hard to get lather with it, but it lasted longer so we bought it I guess. Long before that there was Lifebuoy (or Lifeboy), a red soap with hard edges.

    And how can I forget my favorite Shikakai soap for hair.

    The habit of sticking the thin old soap to the new one was probably part of every household! One beautiful memory is that we had collected many soaps remnants and then mom did some boiling water or something on the stove, the soaps formed one multicolor bigger bar. It was like the marble that had multiple colors.

    Margo soap was one we tried to avoid for the smell but it was good for some spots my sister and I got on our backs and neck.

    The most precious memory remains when we started to buy a different soap just for face : ) and it used to be Pears for a while. I can even now recall that distinct fragrance and "tanginess" of a Pears bar, and its translucent deep brown/rust color.

    We used to keep the soap covers in the clothes almirah for the fragrance.

    The clothes soap (Rin, Regal?) also hold a special place in memory. Mom used to keep scolding the maid servant for "dissolving" it too soon by leaving it in excess water in the soapbox.

    When I happened to find Indian soaps in Indian stores in the U.S I bought a few but somehow they didn't work well with the water here.

    Old habits die hard. I still cannot use a liquid soap, and take along a bar soap even when I travel. I cut my Dove soap into two or four parts for economy.
     
  7. Srama

    Srama Finest Post Winner

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    Dear @umaakumar ,

    That is such a lovely write up and all of us can relate to it at some level! Enjoyed reading it. Economical or not, no question was ever raised about placing new soap on old ones in our house. I would put it down to pure laziness but it was a deliberate act as far as rin was concerned for clothes :) I woke up wondering about soap all because of an article I had read yesterday about a boy who came up with the idea of "skin cancer treating soap" and lo here I am responding to your lovely snippet. Not a big fan of liquid soaps here mostly for environmental and wastage reasons but keep them for guests for hygienic reasons :)
     
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  8. gamma50g

    gamma50g Gold IL'ite

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    This hits me with such a wave of nostalgia. Like you, I was also raised on a diet of Hamam. Also remember the thin soap being stuck on new soap bar.

    Now hurrying over to nominate you for finest post!
     
  9. PurpleRoses

    PurpleRoses Finest Post Winner

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    Thanks for the thread brings back so many old childhood memories. As young as my memory goes far, j&j baby soap was used for me n my sibling while mum & dad used Lux. Brands of household items were fixed. Closeup for toothpaste, halo for shampoo or clinic plus sachets.
    During summer vacation, we used to visit 15days at mom's place and 15days at dad's place.
    Both houses had common bathroom n thankfully a common toilet but placed next to the bathroom so that those who needed toilet didnt need to wait for the person in bathroom to finish bathing.
    The common soap used at mom's place was always rexona with its peculiar smell and it used to dry the skin as of using a rin or vim soap on skin .
    At dad's place, it was the mighty Margo or sometimes hamam but be it whatever soap and whichever place, the melted old thin piece of soap was always stuck to the new one.
    But as we grew, each one of us started using separate soaps due to a) each having different preferences and b) it suddenly seemed unhygienic to use a soap used by another family member.
    Also, since the families were large, there would be long lengthy strips of clinic plus shampoo sachets which grandma used to maintain the stock n handover 1 sachet per person on demand for headbath that particular day. Wow old memories are nostalgic.

    Coming to present, though being in India, I still shuffle between using body washes and soaps. Body washes are less harsh on skin and also travel friendly.
    Soaps used on days where bath time needs to be finished in less than 5-10mins.
    But ditched the so called branded ones as lux, conthol, liril, palmolive,rexona,hamam, medimex, etc etc n now prefer handmade soaps which are not harsh on skin n no or very less chemicals. Only mysore sandal soap is worthy to be used from the lot of branded ones and also maybe chandrika.
     
  10. Mistt

    Mistt IL Hall of Fame

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    @umaakumar,
    Thank you for your pleasant snippet that took me a lovely trip down memory line :). I recollected all soaps names which I had used until I came here. Finally, I settled with Dove soap as it works well for this water here. I too still have the habit of sticking old thin soap to the new one and I never use liquid soap.
     

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