So the bar of soap, where I'm at, contains aloe vera and neem. Nothing too unusual about that; pretty much anything seems to end up in soaps, from cucumbers to rose petals to mushrooms, pepperoni and anchovies.
No wait, that's pizzas I mean.
Anyway, this particular bar is also called a "Luxury Sugar Soap", and in an elegant script, it says "WITH REAL SUGAR CRYSTALS."
I'm sure there's a very good reason for soaps to contain sugar, and especially real sugar crystals. If anyone knows that reason, I'd like to hear it. Personally, I can't say I've ever found myself having a shower and thinking: "Hmm, a few real sugar crystals would feel real good on my bony chest about now." But like I said, I'm sure there's a very good reason.
Note: it's clearly not that the soap tastes sweet. I know so because I tried.
I spent a day in Cochin twenty years ago. About the only detail I remember from then is a chance meeting with a then-young Malayalam film star. This trip is my first time here since then. No, it's not soap with sugar that drew me back. But it's already near the top of my list of top-flight Cochin attractions. Elsewhere on that list are various delightful signs I caught on my way into town. A sample:
* The "Exit" sign at the airport is trilingual. In two of the languages, the word concerned is very short ("Exit" in English and "Bahar" in Hindi). You might expect the sign, therefore, to be a smallish one. But no: it is unexpectedly long. That's because the Malayalam word for "Exit", at least the one used on that trilingual board, is, I'm guessing, about 746 letters long. Four letters, three letters, and 746 letters. It's among the finest "Exit" signs I have ever seen.
* "Bridal Milky Whitewear" was advertised somewhere. Do I really want to know what that is? No.
* But nearby was Baby's Thettayil Residency. Naturally, this reminded me of my good friend who told me of a famous actress who had died in childbirth. I asked my friend, "Whose baby was it?" Said friend looked at me in exasperation, and said "Hers!"
And now some baby or another has a Thettayil Residency.
* A restaurant announced that it was "Now Open: A La Cartel Lunch." Which, didn't you know, is a lunch whose price is fixed by OPEC.
* On one of the ferries across the city harbour, a small paper sticker left me vaguely disturbed. "Think of those who wait for you," it said. "Reach home safe and so let others."
Why does this sticker-maker assume that I'm not letting others reach home safe?
Things improved when I got into a bus. For it had a prominent hand-painted sign behind the driver, saying "Welcome to Hello."
Oh yes, where I'm at there's also a flat brown cardboard box, about a centimeter thick, labelled "Loofah".
I've not yet worked up the courage to open it. But I have tried saying to it, heartily and with feeling, "Welcome to Hello!"