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Sanjay Surana Headshot

The Sorded Smell of Salesmanship

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What's wrong with this picture?

I was recently in India, visiting family, and went into a drug store to pick up some toiletries that I probably didn't need (they are much cheaper in Mumbai than in Singapore, where I live, so I was wasting less money. A win-win situation, right?). As I scanned the shelves, my eyes noticed the two small boxes pictured above. My first thought was that these contained sweetly scented bubble-bath pearls for little babies (mistakenly shelved among the men's deodorants). I mean, who doesn't want to smell like a penguin or a caterpillar?

But then I read the words at the bottom of the box and my heart sank. And my head shook. And my indignation attempted some other motion. At what point in the history of the world did some misguided genius (insert your own euphemism here) decide that children require perfume?

I recognize the need for perfume, after all there's something uplifting about smelling musky, or floral, or fruity, or spicy. And I understand the existence of -- though not the necessity for -- the niche of celebrity perfumes, because they help us to buy into a celebrity's lifestyle, convince us we're a little like them by spritzing a couple of dashes of their fragrance on our collar bone, neck, wrist. But scents for children? That type of scent makes no sense? Isn't it a universal truth that all young children smell heavenly -- a mix of talcum powder, roses, dirt, grass, and cinnamon?

I had to find out more about Jungle Magic, made by Mumbai-based Piramal Healthcare, manufacturer of pharmaceutical products, over-the-counter medicines, and provider of medical diagnostic services. The product's website, like so many websites for kids' products, features games (though you have to register with information like school, class, and home address!). There's also a short animated advert (with a kid's voice at the end asking the viewer when they are going to buy the perfume), together with some perplexing findings on the site, like how watching TV can help improve a kid's attention span (yeah, for watching TV), and how the Jungle Magic perfumes increase concentration, improve alertness and refresh the mind. Sounds to me like a load of hogwash. Note, I said sounds, not smells.

I'm not against scents -- I have about six bottles of (unopened) cologne at home -- and some people certainly benefit from a fragrance's power, whether for luring a mate or its body-odor/alcohol-masking qualities. But why oh why do children need them? Kids don't usually develop apocrine sweat glands, the ones that pump out the smelly sweat, until they hit puberty. And at that age, hate to say it, but perfume probably ain't the answer to their troubles. Frankly...get ready for the groan-worthy pun...the whole thing stinks.