I Went to Bed Smelling Like Dettol

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Memoir  |  House: Booksie Classic
Dettol, an amber colored liquid used as disinfectant. Juggernut received a full bodywash with Dettol water from his mother after he purchased a yellow jockey shorts.

Submitted: July 22, 2012

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Submitted: July 22, 2012



I Went to Bed Smelling Like Dettol

Subba Rao

Hindu deities depicting various incarnations of God were worshipped in fabulous temples; there are scores of Hindu deities of local faith in small towns and villages worshiped in open-air or in modest structures made up of steel, wood or concrete.  Nowhere in the history one can find the name of a sculptor that carved any deity in any temple; people don’t want to believe that the deities were man-made, the deities were discovered accidentally hundreds to thousands of years ago in a cave or mountain top or deep well or at the bottom of a river, only installed later in intricately constructed fabulous temples.  For believers, a real God or Goddess after completing his or her duty on earth turned into a deity in either complete human, complete animal or half human and half animal form to be worshipped for thousands of years to come.

A stone Deity of Goddess Kanaka Maha Lakshmi believed to be discovered over a hundred years ago in a deep well  was later installed on an open-air small rock podium in the center of a street in a residential area known for small-scale business community. The deity of the bust of Goddess Lakshmi was worshipped daily by the devotees pouring coconut water and cow’s milk over the deity. This practice along with exposure to hot sun, wind and rain in open-air slowly eroded the facial features of the bust. Now, after a century of open-air worship, one can hardly identify the deity’s facial features, and then the local government took over the management of the worship and built a shelter to protect the deity from the elements.

While Goddess Lakshmi is worshipped worldwide among Hindu community, Goddess Kanaka Maha Lakshmi, a variant of Goddess Lakshmi is purely local; thousands of devotees travel hundreds of miles to visit the deity known for granting the wishes of her devotees in acquiring wealth and upward mobility in whatever field. For these reasons, Juggernaut’s mother took her children often to worship the stone bust of Kanaka Maha Lakshmi.; not too far from temple was a 150 year old St. Ann cathedral perhaps the largest church in the city.  It is ironic that Muslims in the neighborhood also worship St. Ann as Hannah.  Between the church bells ringing and religious songs from a loud speaker near the Lakshmi temple, life could be overwhelming for the local residents. The side-walks along the narrow streets around the Maha Lakshmi temple were taken over by the vendors selling flowers, coconuts and all kinds of trinkets mostly celebrating Goddess Maha Lakshmi and St. Ann. Just around the corner in an open area several horses were let loose to rest during the night time by their owners that operate horse-drawn buggies in town.  The smell of horse dung was intense in the evening hours when worshippers crowd the area, in comparison the smell of dung from roaming cows was less intense; this could be something to do with difference in digestion process between horse stomach and cow stomach or perhaps people were more accustomed to the smells of fresh cow down often seen on the streets. Only recently the horses were removed to make space for more shops.

During one of the visits to worship Maha Lakshmi, Juggernaut requested his mother to let him go shop for jockey shorts at nearby street vendor.  Juggernaut always wanted yellow jockey shorts since all his jockey shorts were white and his mother never allowed having him a colored one, she believed that white is clean. 

“How much is that yellow underwear?” asked young Juggernaut looking at jockey shorts in various bright colors wrapped in plastic bags spread on the side-walk.”

“Well, you have to buy a packet with two shorts, you cannot buy one,” said the woman vendor.  Juggernaut purchased a pair of yellow jockey shorts for the very first time in his life.  Meanwhile, his mother reached him at the vendor.

“You paid too much for those ugly underwear; have you bargained before you purchased?” asked Juggernaut’s mother and started argument with the vendor for overcharging and demanded a refund.  Suddenly a man came out from behind a large card-board box defending his wife over the price and exchanged nasty words with Juggernaut’s mother. The brawl attracted several on-lookers taking sides while Juggernaut stood in silent embarrassed for the situation; at the end, the vendor agreed to take back the yellow jockey shorts with partial refund.

“Do you notice the man’s fingers were disfigured from leprosy?” Juggernaut’s mother was upset.

“I did not saw that man until you came here, his wife was doing all the business.”

“Well, leprosy is contagious and I need to keep this return money separate and you sit on the floor of the rickshaw on the way home, you hear,” Juggernaut’s mother was angry.

On reaching home, she went straight to medicine cabinet for Dettol, amber colored transparent liquid most households keep a bottle handy as an all-purpose disinfectant.  She added few drops of Dettol into a bucket of warm water, instantly the amber colored droplets turned milky white as it mixed with water emitting strong chemical smell.  She washed Juggernaut from head to toe several times using Dettol water, then she washed the money received from the vendor with Dettol and left it to dry. That night Juggernaut went to bed smelling like Dettol.

Several years later, while studying college organic chemistry, Juggernaut learned that Dettol is a phenolic compound with antimicrobial properties introduced in India for household use in early 1900’s.

Several decades later, now living on the Big Island in Hawaii, one evening while wandering in a swimwear store Juggernaut’s attention caught bright yellow underwear on a rack, on close examination those were night-glowing bright yellow jockey shorts, he always wants to have; his memories went all the way back when in he was in early teens wanted to have yellow jockey shorts only ended up having a full-body wash with Dettol water. “Well, now I can buy and wear bright yellow jockey shorts and walk around glowing bright yellow over the tide-pools during dusk,” thought Juggernaut picking up a pair of night-glowing bright yellow jockey shorts.



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