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?