I’m going through a minor catastrophe at the moment. This may be a bit of a falsehood because it is not minor for me at all. No. In fact, it is something that pops into my head every five minutes on my very busy days. The problem is this: I am on my last box of Pond’s Cold Cream and every pharmacist and grocery store I have enquired with seems to be out of stock.
“November mein phone karo, winter mein aayega,” each salesman consoles me. I live in Mumbai. We have no winters. “I use this everyday and I really need it,” I implore. “Age Miracle is available”, but my vanity has me in denial. “Sorry madam.” Click.
I blame my beauty fixes on my paternal grandmother— not a great Helen of Troy by any standards. But her mammoth rosewood dressing table (yes those ones with three full-size bendable mirrors) held much sway over my young eyes as a child. I aped everything she did. And now I am left with an obsessive urge to moisturise thrice a day and an undying fetish for red lipstick (“Lipuss-tick”, in her Punjabi drawl, “Meh-roon waali”).
My other beauty fix is Lakme’s liquid eyeliner. I’ve been wearing it every day since I was 15, I can put it on in the dark. And I don’t think I’ll ever leave home without it. Despite the gorgeous liners that Guerlain and Mac produce, you can’t get those batwings without Lakme’s old fashioned brush and pot.
Every country has its homegrown staples that its locals swear by. Italian herbs and its leather are world renowned. The Chinese use strange concoctions for medicines (deer-hair, frogs-eyes kind of stuff), try finding a regular chemist in Hong Kong. The Americans own fast food. Thank god we have Ayurveda. The whole world is waking up to Indian beauty products. Brands like Kama, Forest Essentials and even Biotique are spinning their best media doctors to turn these into global players.
I’ve introduced Kama and Forest Essentials to every single friend of mine who either lives abroad or is a foreigner. They have all announced that all they want from me is a steady supply of these. No more chemical-laden products will do. These are by far the best bath and self-care products in the world. My staples here are Kama’s Bringadi hair oil and Multani Mitti face masks, and Forest Essentials sugar soaps or those with orange rinds as loofah. You’ll find these in my bathroom any given day.
My too-few visits to the Jiva Spa at various Taj hotels have introduced me to a new kind of heaven. Their two-hour-long signature therapies are addictive albeit an expensive indulgence. They are an ode to Ayurveda with massages and scrubs made of natural Indian herbs and spices. My last jaunt at Taj Vivanta introduced me to an icky papaya-seed wrap as an exfoliator. But my absolute favourite item from their stable is the orange-rind scrub that’s left freely for use in the bathrooms of the Falaknuma Palace at Hyderabad. It gives you an immediate golden glow that is embarrassingly obvious.
It is a wonderful idea to rediscover Indian beauty products once again, many of them can be found in our kitchens. Especially in times when our rupee is being devalued. When thousands of crores of rupees are being spent on foreign makeup, foods and colas.
Do you have any favourite local staples?