If it is Shah Rukh Khan telling you something, you’d better pay attention! If he mocked you for using a women’s fairness cream despite being a man, what would you do? You’d dash straight to the nearest kirana store or department store and grab the ‘For men’ fairness cream. Because SRK says that a man’s skin is different from a woman’s skin and needs a different cream.

Not all that long ago, we seemed to do quite well with the same bar of soap for the whole family, the same economy-sized vats of face creams, shampoos, deodorants etc. The only divide that i remember was in shampoos, and that was regarding the hair-types – egg for undernourished, pink for oily and so forth. And maybe the famous brand which produced cosmetics for babies. No longer, though. ‘New research’ tells us through ads that men and women are different and their needs gender-specific. So they need different things for their skin, their hair, their teeth – wait, not teeth. They haven’t researched that far yet, but the day may not be far off when we find that women have far more delicate teeth and should hence be using a special toothpaste!

After educating us on gender, the producers of these goods looked around and discovered that families consisted of not just men and women; they had people in different age groups too. Bingo! So, they asked us how we could think of giving our cute toddlers baths with big, bad bars of soap. The injustice of it! And out came their own teddy-shaped, strawberry flavoured soaps. Yes, pink for girls and blue for boys, spilling off shelves in all their vibrant, irresistible colours and fragrances. And they told us that kids needed their special Barbie deodorants, soft, more malleable toothbrushes and, yes, that detergent which takes off all stains like magic.

Did they stop there? No, considerate souls that they are, how could they neglect the parents? Their health is paramount, they shook a finger at us. Sharing the kids’ Horlicks or Bournvita is just not good enough for them; hadn’t we heard of the one which is meant for their age group? The magic mix which keeps them young but not so young that they could share their kids’ health drink? Go get it, pronto!

Kids, tick. Kids versus parents, tick. Now, how to divide further? Parents means mothers and fathers i.e. once again men versus women. Bingo again! So how could they let men and women have the same cereal? Just like TV serials – as Ekta Kapoor knows so well – have to be made keeping in mind women viewers with the right doses of emotion and intrigue, cereals, apparently, also have to be tailor-made. Taking a page out of the lady’s book, cereal makers have now launched a breakfast serial – oops, cereal – for women. God help the men who take it by mistake; they’d be as unable to digest it. And if they do digest it, they may lose oodles of weight and come out curvy and smiling, fitting into their before-marriage trousers with ease. While a lesser mortal may think that it is not such a bad idea to lose that paunch, our guides up there smile benignly at our naivete and tell us that wanting to lose weight is a woman’s prerogative.

Separating men from women, kids from elders, they look for further divisions and find the in-betweeners. How to distinguish men from boys? While you may be thinking of a hundred things, what do our friends, philosophers and guides come up with? A cell phone. And yes, the phonewala beams confidingly, sales have shot up as all the little ones are in a hurry to become dashing men. Mission accomplished!

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