Saturday, December 10, 2011

It's a Good Sign!

The Bahrain hotel suite in which my brother George and I stayed for a few days en route to India contained two appliances which even here in America remain largely unknown quantities to me, given my slipshod lifestyle: a clothes washer and a dryer.  George, however, is a far more tidy and orderly soul than I am, so he decided we must make use of this largesse on the part of the Desert Pearl hotel.  And, in truth, even I could tell that, after a series of interminable flights, my clothing could do with a bit of cleaning.  We set forth for the Megamart, a large supermarket nearby, which also sold clothing and various other useful items, to buy some laundry soap.  There we found Tide which, when I lived in Saudi, was the brand everyone used, and next to it was a laundry soap called Omo.  I vaguely recall seeing products from this brand when I lived in Saudi where I assumed it was some brand used in European countries, like Fa or Fairy.  I do know that Tide was so popular that I literally never saw any other product used by Saudis or Westerners or anyone else from the highest paid to the lowest paid groups in Saudi.  I commented at the time, more than once, that I wished I got a penny for each box of Tide sold in the Kingdom.  

George and i were feeling bohemian and adventurous and we decided to try Omo laundry soap, and I think we may have discovered a source of Omo's difficulty in competing with Tide.  Right under every display, on each box, of the brandname 'Omo' was the company's slogan: "Dirt is Good".  I do not kid; that is the slogan, printed proudly and repeatedly on every box.  I have a box here with me to prove it.  

One of the joys of travel in third world countries is the English signage.  It is easy to make fun of these, although who among us can be at all certain that he could correctly advertise any product in a foreign language.  When in Saudi, I saw "Big Sails" advertised and a shop that sold "grosseries".  What is even more enjoyable for me is where signs are correct, but the usage is a little different that that which we might find here in the US of A.  Whose heart would not be warmed seeing the Sincere Saloon, which is located right next to the Nice Bakery in one Indian village?  And does amputation have to be a dreary affair; why not shop at the breezy Prosthetics 'n' Splints shop which we saw in one Indian village?  

Our purpose in visiting India was, of course, to attend the wedding of Gopu and Sreeja.  Gopu is the brother-in-law of Papa, my former room mate from the Saudi days, and my long-time friend.  In order to dress properly for the big event, Papa, his wife, George and I went to Kochi (formerly  called Cochin) to one of the finest clothing stores where Mrs Papa purchased a number of glorious saris while the three of us men bought kurtas, which are long overshirts with the old Nehru style collars, and lunggis, white sarongs with a decorative gold band along the hemlines.  The hem band need not be gold - it can be another color - but ours were gold-banded, though the lunggi George chose had a second narrow band of silver thread inside the gold band.  The remarkable feature for George and me in this elegant multi-floored establishment called Jayalakshmi was to be found on the third floor where we waited drinking excellent coffee supplied gratis  by the staff while Mrs Papa was selecting her saris.  We sat on chairs near the elevator doors and on the wall above us was a huge decorative ad poster which looked very much like an ad from GQ or one of the upscale fashion magazines.  Depicted in it was a sultry-eyed man in a white suit staring in that smoky fashion found only among fashion models, who was leaning against a white piano.  The whole picture was printed primarily in a pale blue-green color and in white; the man looked like an Indian version of Johnny Depp with long dark locks fashionably rumpled.  Clearly this was no locally produced poster; no clerk had been asked to run up a sign for the wall in his or her spare time; the whole presentation reeked of the highest degree of professionalism.  What drew our gaze most was the title of the sheet music displayed clearly on the piano: Prelude to Fornication.  (The piece was, if you are interested, in the key of D flat.)  

We all know that that title is probably the best possible description of a wedding in such a traditional culture as that of India, but couldn't Jayalakshmi be just a little more reticent here?    Or couldn't they, instead, focus on the true purpose of weddings everywhere, which is to display a family's wealth and (lack of) good taste?  


  1. Hello David,
    I popped over from a comment you made on Beth Marie's blog and have to confess that I spent the day perusing your blog entranced by your insight, humor and tales. I found myself nodding and chuckling often...and transformed into an unabashed Shagger.
    Always, Rita

  2. @Rita - I thought I heard a pop up here! I am greatly complimented that you stuck around so long. Let us shag together for a bit - I am about to visit you back...

  3. What does one do for fun in Saudi Arabia?

  4. I'm afraid I'm a sneaky Shagger, David; been lurking around every so often to see where your travels took you, found no updates for a spell, then happened by this morning to discover this yarn dangled before me. Great storytelling, as always!

    Only you could make the search for suitable suds so interesting; I am certain that if I ever find myself in that neck of the woods I will know precisely which detergent to choose (and I hope you are generously compensated by the makers of Tide for your kind words on their behalf).

    On the subject of lavish dress for a nuptial event, what better opportunity than that to deck oneself out in one's best bib and tucker (or saris and kurtas); it would be wonderful to see everyone dressed to the nines in the bridal couple's honor!

    Thank you for "showing" me a part of the world I'll most likely never see; fortunately, I have a pretty adequate imagination and your narrative helped me fill in the blanks...what I "saw" was beautiful!

    I've missed you, my friend, and look forward to following along on your next adventure!

    Consider yourself soundly hugged.

  5. @Laoch - My next entry has one answer, at least. Saudi is not good for 'fun' in the quick trip to Orlando sense, but folks who learn their way around have a great time (this takes more than a two-week jaunt). Scuba diving in the Gulf and Red Sea is extraordinary. Guys often do off-road driving, shopping is fantastic (no taxes, either!). Many compounds have very good athletic facilities - many guys join the Harriers and do a form of cross-country racing therein. Socializing is a large part of people's non-work life. For me, seeing a non-Western culture which still had retained a pre-tourist ambience was the greatest of Saudi's benefits.

    @Marge, you old Flatterer - the wedding was a three-day extravaganza - the duds were the least of the expenses for the happy couple! One wedding at one of our hotels included an elephant in the proceedings! If you happen to read my next entry, you will see that "Dirt is good" could be my motto as well! I value your comments BIG - TIME!

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