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Antiseptic cream

By Nickunj Malik - Dec 03,2014 - Last updated at Dec 03,2014

Few advertising jingles survive the test of time. They might not be on air anymore but after several decades also, a tiny tune is all it needs, for the entire ditty to come rushing back. In one’s head, that is. 

Karen Carpenter’s “When I was young I’d listen to the radio, waiting for my favourite song,” was a number that was written for my generation. Yes, we listened to the radio, and how! The rectangular box with round knobs in front, one for tuning the station and the other one for volume control, would occupy a pride of place in any living room. 

To protect it from real or imaginary dust particles, most good housewives like my mum, would wrap a sort of doily around it. News broadcasts, latest film songs, cricket commentary, recipe for pickles and so on, all of it would be absorbed with the greatest of interest, from the radio. Entire families would postpone their meal timings if there was an interesting programme being transmitted live that clashed with the dinner hour. 

Neighbours did not think twice before inviting themselves over to your house. They sometimes lent a helping hand in sorting out the positioning of the aerial antenna, which cleared the sound waves and made it more audible. If the national team won any matches, they stayed for the celebratory supper. 

But in all this, the most vocal were the children, who sang along with the promotional songs whenever they were played between the slots. Whether it was a publicity gimmick for a bicycle, hair dye or cough drops, we had memorised them all. 

Boroline, pronounced to rhyme with auto-sheen, had the best melody and rhythm. It went something like, “sweet smelling antiseptic cream, Boroline”. Available only in the eastern regions of India, the ointment, which came in a dark green tube, was supposed to sort out all your ailments. Dry skin, itchy skin, cuts, burns, scars, pimples, cracked feet, elbows, chapped lips, moles, warts, you name it, and this cream had a treatment for it. Derived from its ingredients “Boro” from “boric powder” that has strong disinfecting properties, and “Olin”, a variant of the Latin word “oleum” meaning oil, Boroline was something that cured from diaper rash to wrinkle slash. 

I was reminiscing about this when I came across four slim tubes of these in my bag. On my last visit to the home country, I had stumbled and sprained my ankle. The swelling had receded after some weeks but an ugly bruise remained. An elderly aunt had immediately bought the cream and asked me to apply it on the injury. Under her watchful gaze I did so for the first few days, and then forgot about it. 

Finding it suddenly, I turned the cap and squeezed some of the balm on my palm. A strong pungent smell accompanied the sticky white ointment. I was wondering what to do with it when my phone rang. 

“I’m getting a terrible toothache Mom,” our daughter greeted me. 

“Hello sweetheart!” I replied cheerfully. “Please mother, what shall I do?”
she implored. 

“I’m not a doctor,” I reminded her.

“But you have a cure for everything,” she exclaimed. 

“That is what Boroline says, not me,” I corrected her.

“Who is Boroline?” she asked.

“Sweet smelling antiseptic cream,” I sang. “Mummy! I’m in pain,” she repeated.

“Here is the dentist’s number,” I said. “TTYL,” she muttered, slamming the phone. “Instant remedy?” I mumbled into the handset.

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