15 February 2022

Brushing up the ’80s

This morning, during my daily call with my brother, somehow the topic veered towards the excitement we used to have brushing our teeth when we visited our village (Debipur). This might seem very ancient to my friends here in America, but we would actually break a twig from the Neem tree, chew one end of it to soften it up (we were told that it made our jaws stronger) and then used the softened end to brush our teeth. As an aside, today, you can get modern toothpaste made of Neem tree that you can use on your toothbrush.

While the experience of brushing was a tad long and tedious and the bitter taste made us squint, the fact that we were on vacation and in our grandma’s village and the novelty of it all left us with very fond memories.

BTW, this might gross some of you out. Somedays, when we did not have so much time, we used to use the ashes from the previous night’s cooking fuel – which was usually coal or cowdung cakes to brush our teeth. There were no brushes – you held the ash in your left palm and used the right index finger and thumb to brush your teeth. Much later in life I learnt how charcoal has the wonderful property of absorbing odor, color and killing bacteria. Back then, the ash tasted strange!

Coming back to yesterday…

“So, do you remember what we used to brush our teeth with when we were small and not in the village?”, I asked my brother.

After some thought, my brother remembered “Monkey Brand”!

I had completely forgotten about it! That black colored powder that would make you revolt if you saw stuck in somebody’s teeth was actually very whitening and refreshing. Found on the internet that I can buy it even today and that too in the USA!

“Do you remember what we used before that?”, I asked him.

My brother could not remember but some of you may remember the original version of Binaca. I could not get a picture of the original yellow and green box it used to come in. The best part of it all was the small plastic animal that came with every box. Like every child of that age, my sister and I collected them and had dreams of opening up an elaborate zoo some day. We even used to use a generous portion of the paste to see if we could run thru it fast!

My other grandma (mom’s side) used to live in a small town (Kalna) in a house made of concrete. In line with that, their toothbrushing ingredients were a little more advanced than my villager relatives. The paste was not to be found – since you had buy brushes. So, there was this old tin of Colgate powder that many might remember for its white color and minty taste. And how it had no other details on the tin than just declaring that it was a tooth powder and was called Colgate! I was able to get a picture of that from the internet too.

While researching for pictures, I ran into another brand that I had again forgotten about. Some of my friends used to use it – Forhans! And that unforgettable orange color box that it came in!!

Well, so much for brushing up the ’80s.

BTW, if any of you find a picture of the original Binaca box (yellow and green), please do shoot it my way.

Posted February 15, 2022 by Rajib Roy in category "Family in India

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