Sweat and glory

Sweat has always been a part of popular poetry and culture. Blood, Sweat and tears are terms used by writers across cultures to depict struggle, bravery and revolution. Sweat also finds its place in literature describing physical beauty. The glitter of sweat droplets on a female body, or the shining muscles of a male body in its own sweat, are beautifying tools used by authors across the world.

Recently an advertisement flooded television channels, where a popular film actor climbs up a mountain cliff with another guy. Our hero literally ridicules the other guy because he is sweating while climbing up a mountain. In another ad a popular actress uses a deodorant and claims it to be sweat absorbent. Hundreds of deodorants today sell their products on making people believe that their products will stop the customer from sweating. More importantly, they infuse the idea in us that sweating is an unwanted phenomena. And we fall prey to these mindless advertising! Hardly do we understand that sweat is a way we release toxins from our bodies. Sweat itself is not the cause of body odor, but rather the bacteria on our skin which feeds on it. Evaporation of sweat from the skin surface has a cooling effect- the reason why we sweat more in summers. Sweat is nature’s way of detoxifying our body and keeping us cool in summers.

The de-glorification and ridiculing of sweat strongly reminds me of the Listerine story. Listerine was invented in the nineteenth century as a surgical antiseptic. It was later sold as floor cleaner and a cure for gonorrhea. Later, in order to increase sales, it was packed and marketed as a solution for bad breath. Listerine’s ads featured forlorn young women and men, eager for marriage but turned off by their mate’s rotten breath. Until that time, bad breath was not catastrophic. But Listerine changed that forever. In just seven years, the company’s revenues rose from $115,000 to more than $8 million. Listerine did not invent mouthwash as much as it invented bad breath. In the same way some corporate masterminds created packaged water threatening us of water borne diseases. This is exactly what happened when iodized salt was made important in India. Except people in Kashmir and Himachal, other Indians don’t even need to consume iodised salt as we get it naturally in the water we drink and food we eat. It was merely corporate pressure, that salt once 1 re per kg, is today sold at 15. A reason which Gandhi once fought for is forgotten because the fear of oppression is replaced by the fear of disease.

Anyways, need not mention that we are all prisoners here of the same device. I am seriously waiting for a day when every literature and poetry glorifying sweat will become matters of mockery- when poems will depict human bravery by glorifying the deodorants we wear.

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