One of the things I remember growing up in India was bathing and washing products. The first memories of any soap I have are of Lifebuoy. This was not the type of Lifebuoy soap in some fancy wrapper you see now days. It was a no-nonsense hardcore tool. It was pretty much a red rectangular thick brick. It used to produce very minimal foam if any. I think the plan was to rub it vigorously against skin so that top layer would peel by sheer friction. This torturous activity was carried out in all households with children at least 2-3 times weekly.
The children protested it and based on their method of protest could be categorized as screamers, hiders, biters, spitters and cursers. But the soap them ruled all was Lifebuoy. Though highly unlikely that any kind of dirt will escape Lifebuoy’s vigorous rubbing, there was also a rock specifically designed to get rid of that stubborn dirt that even Lifebuoy could not get off.
After the bath, the body was massaged with mustard oil. Those of you who never had this soul scorching experience, just imagine a yellow colored, foul-smelling thick viscous grease. This thing adhered to anything it was applied to. And applied it was! It was rubbed in hair, to face and whole body.
The torture did not end there. After this there was Kajal (mascara) applied to eyes, which was equivalent of water boarding for a child. If you never had the pleasure of this experience, imagine being 5-6 years old, being held down by all fours, someone forcing your eyes open and slithering a black powder inside your eyelids. It was applied to both boys and girls eyes. After this a black dot was put on forehead or face to protect one from evil spirits. There was also a black string tied around waste for the same reason. Only after all these things were done in this particular sequence, you were ready to face the world.
The washing soap was even more hardcore. It was a thick rock looking slab. It produced no foam. Women (no men ever washed clothes) continued to rub it against clothes and beat the heck out of clothes with a cricket bat like wooden slab called Thapi. In fact women were very happy that this soap lasted so long. I honestly believe that this was another cruel joke played on women by men. This thing was no soap, just looked like one.
Once in a while we were taken to barbershop. Rather we were conned into going there. We were made to believe that we are going to get some sweets/toys. Once we realized the con, most of us started to scream, cry and run away. But it was too late. The shops had one person whose job was to hold kid down while “master” did the cutting part.
At times your barber could be a trainee. This could result in some real unfortunate results. Grandmothers got very mad when they saw what has been done to apple of their eyes. As all grandmothers believed that their grandson was the best looking kid, they walked right to shop and told the shop owner what they thought about them. The “master” would try to fix trainees misdeeds and occasionally slap him a couple of times too.