Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Binaca Toothpaste Freebies

The hexagonal cap later was replaced with the knurled, conical type.

Freebies have always been offered to attract the public to sell various products. Just like people went to theatres mainly to see a ‘trailer clip’ of a future movie, people bought products for the free item rather than the product itself! Marketers had begun to see how a ‘free tag’ works on human minds. ‘Buy one get one free’ was not certainly thought of for most part of the last century, but free items were offered that were good quality, unlike what we see now – they are real junk, throwaway toys or useless items which are advertised in an attractive manner to which people fall prey, thanks to their kids who are the advertisers’ target!

In the 1960s, we had Binaca Toothpaste. It was a popular brand and most homes had either Colgate or Binaca. But the humble ‘Nanjangud Toothpowder’ was always there… to eat (yes, it was tasty too!) as standby in case the tube was completely squeezed out! Kids loved the Nanjangud flavour and aroma of the pink powder. Toothbrushes too were making its entry fast during that time, with the development of Nylon Bristles that lasted long – products were ‘made to last’, unlike the cheap ‘use and throw’ items that flood the market today. Speaking of Nylon, I still use my grandfather’s shaving brush that he must have purchased in the late 60s. He used it for about 8-10 years and then when it was time for me to shave I began using it almost 30 years ago! The bristles remain amazingly straight in spite of being continuously used [I hang it upside down – that may be a secret!] hundreds of times over. I’ve deviated off subject. Let me come back to the freebies of Binaca.

Despite their roaring market, they probably wanted to stay high and so they introduced a free ‘water picture’ [hope I’m right] with every carton to hold on to customers. They were days when stickers or self-adhesive tapes had not entered. They were ‘gum and gum tape days’. This little piece of paper with a hidden picture had to be soaked in water for a few minutes, then had to be stuck when still wet, to a glass surface and slowly peel off the protective layer. This had to be done with deft hands of an adult lest the delicately thin picture would get damaged! It got stuck when dry. I picture a few here:

They are still looking new even now, as if it was stuck last week. Just as we stand in front of that mirror or go to the bookshelf, the mind jogs back to the era of the ‘light green’ toothpaste and also the immensely popular Wednesday 8 PM show “Binaca Geet Mala”, presented by Ameen Sayani on Radio Ceylon’s ‘Vividh Bharti’.

Hotels that boasted of radios [not many homes had even a radio in those times] were crowded at that hour, either for business or just standing and listening outside [volume was on a high always – what thrill!]. In our house most of the members of the joint family [I was too young to appreciate that at that time] crowded in front of our Bush Radio at that hour. The product sold well, stopped people’s bad breaths, kept shiny teeth and gave little gifts like those.

Binaca surely held on to customers with its unique ways! Not for nothing it was popular!

Later in the 70s, there came enclosed with each tube of Binaca, tiny plastic figurines of various animals. This soon became a collecting fancy. Friends even exchanged their duplicates for new ones. No sooner the toothpaste carton arrived home or even at the shop counters itself, we would curiously open and see which doll was in!! I must say, they were still the days when recycled plastic was unknown. So these cute little things are of soft virgin plastic.

Binaca could not cope up to stiff competition from other brands in the 80s and even tried to change the name to ‘Cibaca’ to see if they could hold on, but it faded away slowly off the shelves. But on my showcase shelf, I’ve treasured the cute little “Binaca Dolls” to remind me of those good old days.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
In May 2018, I have put up another post on this subject. Have made a proper display box to house these little beauties. I come back to add the link. Go there to see: 

Friday, March 20, 2009

The Browns, my old pals

[Calendar of 1913, gifted by Mr.Brown]

Taking advantage of an absent lecturer in college in 1979 I went to one of the jewelry shops on Ashoka Road, in my quest for some Indian silver coins of the Victorian era. My inquiry for a certain coin at a shop drew the attention of an old Anglo-Indian gentleman who was there for a chat with the proprietor. He asked me what I collected. Soon, after an introductory conversation the old man and I both bicycled down, he on his 'Humber', I on my 'Robin Hood', to his humble “Green Pastures” a few streets away. He had readily agreed to show his coins and stamps and I had time. Common interests! I had struck another friendship with one Krishnappa the previous year, much the same way.

This was Mr. Richard Brown. After serving many years as a Guard in the Railways he had chosen Mysore to settle down for his post-retirement life since the late 60s, probably because there was a Mysore connection – his grandfather was working in the Railways at the turn of the last century! His other passion was poultry birds – a glass showcase displayed his trophies. But his top passion was reading and he followed cricket. Cable TV had made its entry into Green Pastures and so he watched some cricket too. Green Pastures was to become my favourite rendezvous for the next 9 years. Mr.Brown, a widower, lived upstairs. His kind, old widowed sister-in-law lived on the ground floor. She too was a keen stamp-collector. The ‘Browns’ and I soon developed a good rapport.

Our collection of stamps and coins were shown to each other and we even got the pleasure of exchanging our extras. Time made our friendship deeper and there came a time when not visiting the Browns was out of routine! Mr. Brown’s vivid description of fairy-tale-like-real stories were enchanting and seemed to take me back in a time machine. His memory was sharp to detail. He narrated with a twinkle in his eye the happier stories but his face turned pale when he recalled how he missed many opportunities that came his way but let them pass by. He never tired admiring Father Didier and Mrs.Webb, [a social worker in Mysore] for their meticulous stamp albums. He never missed intimating me about the annual fair at St.Bartholomew’s church for the sale of stamps. He used to avail his railway pass to visit his favourite city, Bombay [now Mumbai], where he used to meet an old lady from whom he bought stamps in front of the GPO there. On his last visit he was disappointed not to see that old lady and also his prostrate surgery thereafter prevented him from traveling.

A couple of ‘proverbs’ narrated by him stand out in my memory: “A job well begun is half complete” and “A hobby should be like a loaded cart pulled uphill, without stopping.” I later realized the truth of the latter since I stopped pulling my hobby cart! For stingy people he used to put it nicely as “he was fond of money.”

I offered my help these two old gems by way of repairing things like watches and clocks, which I knew. Mr.Brown had some old watches and clocks. In fact, all things in his simple house were old, antiques to which he used to tell stories how they came to him! Since he did not trust giving the watches outside for servicing, he gave me and was so happy to see them back in fine condition. 65-year old Mrs.Brown used to give me some odd little repair jobs. I had never seen a musical box before and it was thrill to put its simple mechanism back in action. She was delighted when she heard its melody again.

Visiting them on Saturdays had become a routine, after I joined work. The Browns used to give moral support when I lost my father and even today I remember Mrs.Brown’s advice “You are young, put your chest forward, shoulders back and be bold, face it.” During Christmas Mrs.Brown would offer me the special dishes she prepared herself. She was a hockey player in her younger days. She suffered from arthritis. She sometimes showed me those swollen fingers and told how difficult it was to do her daily cooking. She loved plants and she kept a few pots with her and was always willing to share a cutting or a bulb to me. One day, she invited me in saying, “look at the tiger” inside. I wondered what it was. It was a new LPG cylinder that had made its entry into her kitchen and she was so afraid of operating the stove. It took her quite some time to get accustomed and convinced that it was not tiger-like, after all!

At the beginning of our acquaintance she showed me her stamp collection, loosely kept in books, unlike Mr.Brown, who had meticulously stuck to his album pages – Airmail stamps were his fancy. I reckon not many collectors go away while showing their collections to visitors, but she did. When she went in to the kitchen, I pocketed three of her common extras out of sheer temptation, heartbeat crossing 100/min. Stealing was alien to me but was committed. As friendship bonded with passing of time I realized it was a great mistake – the act had been troubling me. I had to return the stolen stamps somehow. One day, I planned to do that. Again, heart pumping heavily in nervousness, I asked her for the collection on the pretext of seeing some stamp. She gave me and would never go in to the kitchen this time! I did not know what to do. After a really long while, spent discussing many things she finally went in to check something on the stove. Without wasting time, I kept them back in her album among other loose stamps. I felt so much relieved after that. I had learnt a big lesson in life.

Some years later, on one of my usual Saturday-visits, as I was climbing the stairs to meet my 78-year-old friend, Mrs.Brown with tears in her eyes, conveyed, “Don’t go, he’s not there!” It shocked me. He had died suddenly the previous Monday. Mrs.Brown was sorrowful and looked quite upset, because they lived in ‘Green Pastures’ in the company of one another for more than 20 years. My visit a couple of weeks later happened to be the last when I met her. She never seemed to have recovered from losing Mr.Brown and that old cheerfulness had gone. She told that she is now dependent on her son’s decision – most likely to be taken with him to the US. I did not know when. Again, one Saturday I went to ‘Green Pastures’ to see what had developed in the past few weeks. But Green Pastures was locked. There was the postman passing by and he told that her son had taken her to the US. He gave me some contact address in Bangalore to which I wrote. But there was no reply. Suddenly she was ‘gone’ too. I never got to know what happened later. I have no pictures of them in print, because there was no camera with me but only in my memory.

My association with these two gems had helped me gain more knowledge, wisdom, confidence in English conversation, inspiration to hobbies and reading. Mr.Brown had got a few coins of Shivaji’s time from a friend while he was serving in Poona (Pune) and he gave me two in exchange for two coins he liked from my extras. These and a calendar of 1913 [pictured above] he gifted are items to remind me of this wonderful old man. I cherish this friendship with the Browns for a long time to come. Again, age was no barrier at all!

 This is very nearly how Mr.Brown looked.  There is so much resemblance in the look of this man and Mr.Brown though Mr.Brown had a brighter and younger look at 73 even towards his end. He too used to spend his time on a reclining chair.  The above picture is of a certain Mr.Foster in the USA.  His daughter Karen and I got acquainted with each other through a garden website post 2009.  Thanks to her for allowing me to copy and use this picture here, the picture was one among the many she shared on facebook and those kept me reminding of that familiar 'Brown look'.  I add it here to remind myself of Mr.Brown.

Monday, March 16, 2009

My friendship with 'Coin Krishnappa'

It is not easy to sustain hobbies without the element of friendship. It becomes dull without like-minded friends. 

Our college lecturer was absent and so I had made a trip to nearby Sayyaji Rao Road to see if there are any interesting old coins on sale [out of the meager pocket money my father gave] with the pavement coin-seller. I was there standing with my bicycle looking at those old coins spread out on a sheet. I noticed a dhoti-clad bald and old man with a darkish complexion, hands on knees, next to me looking closely at some coin. Since I did not know many who collected coins, I was eager to know if there were any. So I asked. He said “Yes, I have a small collection. Do you also collect?’. I said yes, boasting about the 100 odd coins. My request to see his collection was honoured almost instantly and enthusiastically. He was going home from a short market errand. I went pushing my bicycle beside the walking old man to his nearby old house. His name was Ganjam Krishnappa, son-in-law of Banumaiah. 

Waiting in his living room, admiring the beautifully framed old paintings all over the walls, I was imagining he would bring it in a box, or some bag. But no, he came out of another room with the clinking sound of a key bunch. He went to a wide table that was right next to me, leaned over and lifted hinged table top to expose his ‘small collection’ through the locked glass top! The sight of so many coins, meticulously labeled country-wise, had me awe-struck! It was a unique table-showcase that housed 
some thousand coins from 200+ countries. And he called that ‘a small collection’, so humbly! I was astonished that he had earnestly sustained his collection for over fifty years.  

Little did I know that he was a renowned numismatist, having one of the best collections in the city. I came to know of this many months later. Further conversation at the time of my leaving revealed that I was the grandson of his family lawyer who had won many cases for them! He was so happy about this coincidence, what with a youngster interested in the hobby. The friendship was to deepen further and was to provide the impetus to our common hobby as well as fatherly affection. He was at least 40 years older than me. Soon, my visits became weekly, or whenever I felt like. 

Krishnappa never commercially put a value to his collection, which he often emphasized and he collected purely for he enjoyment of the hobby. He bought coins, which he fancied without bothering about its ‘future value’. He also had a fancy for paintings and did the same when it came to buying them. Another great quality in him was his joy to show his collection to all those interested, but never exhibited anywhere outside. All these and much more impressed me.

Being his revered lawyer’s grandson, I got special affection. That also gave him much joy. He also showed my grandfather’s picture, which he kept with him! He used to tell me that the last pronote my grandfather wrote a day before his death was for his case.

I was never once sent from his home without any snack, food or drink. Later on, it was the affection that attracted me more than the coins. If I missed visiting for one or two weeks [due to cricket] he would ask me why I did not come. He used to encourage me with his extra coins and even empty album sheets. With the enthusiasm of a child, he would show me new mint releases and tell about new developments in the numismatic world – he was a member of the numismatic society. He would willingly help identify any old coins from his catalogue. One special privilege I had was seeing a couple of rare gold coins, which he showed from his iron safe – this he never did to anyone else.

On one of my usual visits I was shocked to see his daughter’s sad face – he had passed away just a few days before. His month-long fever had never subsided. He left behind his collection that is still preserved by his grandson.

Our friendship lasted just 8-9 years. It ended as abruptly as it began. My interest in numismatics waned off, with his loss, but not the memory of this simple, kind-hearted man. The generation gap was no matter at all.

Some links relevant to the hobby of coin-collecting:


Friday, March 13, 2009

My best and squarest meal

Many of us would have enjoyed one particular unforgettable meal at one point of time or other. Mine 'happened' in 1999. In fact, I had won that meal! Connect cricket to a meal. Let me share how that happened.

Our office team, had won the final of a cricket tournament in a thrilling last ball finish. It was an unbeaten 48 from my blade that had secured victory. I was taking strike with 3 runs required to win from the last ball. The connection of bat to ball was so-so and we could manage only two. Two unforgettable runs! It was a tie. We won because we had lost lesser wickets. My partner Ravi perhaps ran the fastest two runs of his life and even now wonders how he completed them comfortably, at full stretch and landing on his tummy!

My innings won the 'man of the match' prize that included a little trophy and something surprising to go with it. It was a letter from the sponsor, a popular 3-star hotel, offering a free lunch for two. It was a rare offer! A fortnight later I went to the hotel with my family consisting of my wife and our two young kids. My request about the kids' inclusion was happily agreed by the manager when I showed that prize-letter. Thanking him, we settled down at a table. A buffet system was waiting for us. It was a Sunday and surprisingly, the other tables were bereft of customers.

The number of food items completely left me awe struck! I did not know where to begin. Once I began, there was no end... or so it seemed, much like that innings! The number of trips I made to the serving table became my family's teasing topic for some days. But I never cared. For, the gastronomer in me was on song, hitting boundary after boundary!

I fail to recall the name of the cuisine on the label. It was not the south Indian, pictured above. This was verily different. Each recipe had its special taste that tickled the buds. They say the freebies tickle more, but I disagree. IT WAS REALLY, REALLY DELICIOUS! Caught in utter vegetarian delight, we forgot to count the number of recipes - there must have been more than twenty. What salads, what ice creams, what curries, what desserts, what what what.... sorry, I cannot remember all names on those individual labels either, because I was engrossed in encouraging a fight between the hand and the mouth.

I never had dreamt that it was going to be such a magnificent meal, one that would also be the squarest to be remembered for long.

My family enjoyed as much as I did. The young kids' relished those variety ice creams, which they recall fondly, but suddenly remember my trips to the serving table! Happy memories and enjoyment of relishing the 'prize' still lingers on even after many years. It was a unique prize that is remembered more than the little trophy [read link below]. My innings on the dining table was comparable to that on the field! I had remained not out, there, but here at the table, I had to declare the innings closed!


Read here, http://mymiscelany.blogspot.com/2007/05/how-we-pose-for-pictures.html how I received the prize from the chief guest and about people posing for cameras - a brief note.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

My coach and a revisit to his home

(Click on photo to magnify)

Being to a particular place in a city after many years can be an exciting experience. The excitement is mainly because of the vanished landmarks that served as indexes to spotting the location.

Such an occasion presented itself a couple of years back in Pune. Our cricket team was playing in a certain ground, which was close to the house of our coach, ‘Nana’ Joshi where I had visited in 1985. In fact, he himself had taken me on his scooter to his house named ‘Matrubodh’, to show his cricket collection of autographs, pictures, memorabilia, etc. He loved showing them to his pupils. I enjoyed looking at them, as much as the tea he himself prepared and served.

He had great admiration for my cricketing talent. We had struck a good rapport with each other during the camp. Some weeks after I returned home, he wrote a long letter in his own handwriting many tips and tricks which he had learnt from other international cricketers of his time, to spread the wisdom. Many of them were to come in handy.

‘Nana’ Joshi had toured with the Indian cricket team and played a few test matches as a wicket-keeper and was a much respected coach of his time. ‘Nana’ had many qualities that I liked, much akin to my late sportsman-grandfather. Very honest, kind, sincere, soft, down-to-earth and teetotaler. I still cannot believe that he died of a liver ailment just less than two years later. I also had the privilege of watching a comedy movie (The return trip of Sergeant Zibulya) during our camp in Pune at that time.

Coming back to the point, there was a strong urge to visit his house, because I had written a letter. I requested my team-mate from Pune to take me there. We had some spare time after the match. So we went around on his bike looking for the small, humble house named ‘Matrubodh’. In 1985, there were hardly any apartments, but the springing up of many of those giants imposed me! I knew roughly where it was. So I persisted and searched some nearby streets looking here and there. Finally, we saw a huge apartment of the same name. We entered, inquired and found out the family, now Joshi’s daughter’s family was living. Things had changed in 24 years, quite obviously.

My letter written few months previously to the same address introducing and requesting the Joshi family for a picture of ‘Nana’ for my album, had reached the destination. Little did I know about my Pune programme then. In the meantime, the sad demise of sometime-sick Mrs.Joshi had taken place. They said that the old lady had read my letter shortly before her demise.

They were very happy to know that the writer of that letter had come there in person! So I requested ‘Nana’s daughter [by sheer coincidence, our daughters share the same name!!] what I needed for the album and how I adored her father as a person. She was considerate and kind enough to understand and allow me to choose any two pictures I liked from the album which ‘Nana’ himself had made, with proper typewritten captions. One of them is shown here. I also saw a few of those memorabilia that ‘Nana’ had shown me then, to tickle the nostalgic nerve, preserved the same way.

Happily I bid goodbye to them. I thank my friend who took me there on his scooter and helped find ‘Matrubodh’. ‘Nana’ had narrated the story why he named the house so when he built it. When he was not chosen for the 1946 tour of England, he was so dejected that it was at this time, his mother boosted him up with advises after which he won his place in the Indian team through hard work [which he always emphasized on his pupils].

‘Matrubodh’ was still in tact, albeit in a different shape and so are his ‘Gurubodh’ to me. Revisiting was as much a joy as finding the house.

Here are some pictures of him and me in the same 'frame':

This is the first time I saw him - so thrilled that I was with a famous Test Cricketer.  He was wearing the India tour of West Indies 1952 blazer  He liked my talent very much.

This is at the Poona Club in 1985 taken before our practice match - it was against a very strong team consisting of many Maharashtra Ranji players. We beat them.  I took 6 wkts and scored a quick 35.  I remember one particular shot I hit off fast bowler Ranjane.  It was past the bowler in the on side and the long on did not have a chance to stop the boundary. One of my best - I can still feel it!  Nana had come to watch us play. Milind Gunjal scored a century in that match and retired, but I got Srikant Kalyani's wicket caught behind by Kokhane cheaply.  Kokhane will never forget that catch. I bowled 26 overs on the trot, 6-52. Lovely 'English-feeling' ground, with super green grass and vintage pavilion, dressing room, clock, hangers....  I really enjoyed. There was a small crowd too as there were so many local heroes in their side!

This is a picture taken after a session of Camp at NCL ground during the same tour - 1985.

A couple of links giving some info. on 'Nana' Joshi:

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

This is tolerance

I sometimes wonder why we 'citizens' tend to react even at trifles and trivialities.  For instance, in traffic when someone honks behind us or someone overtakes from the left we get easily annoyed and shout at them.  Or worse still, in the rainy season when someone else’s wheel splashes dirty water from a puddle on us, we know at what speed the adrenalin shoots up and how impulsively we react.  Someone has to remind and calm us “Okay, cool down, cool down”.  They say, such impulses are due to stress, if not a bad habit!

I was traveling in a 'passenger train' recently.   True to its reputation, the compartment was overcrowded with passengers, its typically awful dirty condition what with missing planks of seats and the luggage shelves [which are also climbed and occupied].  The Railways perhaps know how tolerant people are and give lowest priority for mending these trains!!  But that is not the point here.

I had managed to get a seat in one such compartment filled with its own class of people on the whole, mostly daily commuters either from villages or traveling from work.  This train stops at every little station.  This is one train that also satisfies many vendors - tea/coffee, fruits, peanuts, snacks, churmuri and really, whatnot.  

There was one clumsy man comfortably sitting cross-legged on the broken luggage shelf above me.  He bought a ‘chota tea’ from a vendor who supplied in an environment-unfriendly plastic cup. Such was the rush that both the tea and the money had to be passed by someone!  He was already been opening shells and eating peanuts, he had just bought.  Shells were being pushed on to the passage, between standing passengers. So his hand was not free for tea.  He kept that cup precariously on the broken part of the shelf.  A minute later, his knee tipped the cup accidentally.  He was careless to keep there in the first instance.  The cup and entire liquid came down on the trousers of a young man, who looked like from hailing from a village, sitting next to me. I thanked my stars as I was not in line of the tea-fall.

I expected a fistfight to add to the 'entertainment'.  Now what he did?  He just paused for a second, got up holding the messy part with his thumb and index fingers, went to the tap for cleaning the part, passing through the cheek by jowl crowd, returned with a one-side-half-wet pant!  No words passed.  He did not seem to mind one bit at all.  All others continued their gossip as if this was commonplace!   

Could his calm behaviour be attributed to the less stressful ‘village atmosphere’ or his own nature?  I wonder.  Anyhow, that exposes us city-dwelling ‘so-called-educateds’ what we might be lacking!  Why cannot we show a level of tolerance he showed?

Honkers drive us bonkers

We have all manner of pollution these days affecting our senses. Noise pollution is one of them, silently bothering many people with stress and depression leading to many diseases.

Making noise disturbingly in public seems to be a ‘birthright’ in our country. We can notice many two and four-wheeler drivers simply honking horns usually for no sensible reason, in such a 'tone' (in Morse Code terms, using only frequent 'dashes' instead of a 'dot') as if demanding way from a big buffalo that is standing right in front. Oftentimes, they honk the horn without even analyzing the availability of space for the other fellow to make way for him. They press the button simply because they have the facility!

The horn is usually intimidating, loud and harsh which always annoy the one in front and not the one pressing the button. There are some countries where the horn is used most judiciously because sounding the horn is considered an insult. But then, in our country, people live among insults and have utter disregard to others on the road. Does this make any sense to them? Peaceful traffic is scarce. One wonders about the urgency everybody has these days! More than real urgency, it is their restless and want-to-be-ahead-of-others attitudes that prompt such unmindful honking [and rushing].

No sooner the signal turns amber, the restless honking begins behind us. They are not even patient for a couple of seconds more, when every body will automatically begin to move on amber changing to green. They honk as if everyone in front will make way for the ‘maharajas’ immediately! It is such a noisy scene.

If you just observe, many use the horn indiscriminately and mostly when they are not required at all. There will be ample free space, [lucky we have that on our roads here till now] but still they honk, even when an announcement of their presence is not needed. They honk even at zebra lines when people are crossing the road. Wonder they know what those lines are there for! Some two-wheelers are found fitted with truck horns! Some play ‘music’ with their horns by continuous honking when just a single, short honk is needed to ask way or announce their presence. Bullying others by such indecent honking is another bad practice that is noticed.
Have we seen any ‘no horn’ boards near hospitals here? Even if there are, they stand ridiculously with their ‘deaf ears’! And how many keep their horns silent in that zone? We have ‘interceptors’ on the prowl but then they catch only easy prey. Who can monitor and catch the offenders in heavily crowded traffic?

Since there is no punishment for these trivialities, I think, at best, the authorities should strictly instruct and educate all DL applicants about good driving ethics and discriminate use of the horn, which may greatly contribute in reducing the decibel level of noise pollution. Supposing, at least in a dream, they do it, it is highly doubted that the individuals wont follow them because they well know that there is no punishment for even the bigger offenses!

How I wish they made only those old rubber bulb horns valid in present times! Even buses and trucks had those, if old timers can remember.