Friday, April 11, 2008


I was reading this really interesting post by Nikhil today and I was astonished by the knowledge that there are people out there like me that collect old 'junk'! I love collecting tins and jars of consumer goods that were made years ago! My fascination with the brands of yore began when I chanced upon an old Ponds bottle in my ancestral home when I was around 15! It was a milk white ceramic bottle with the familiar leaf icon on the label.

As I beheld the bottle I could almost smell the cold cream being applied on my face by my mom or some aunt in my childhood as they got me ready for some function or outing. I held the bottle close, petrified that it may fall and break into pieces shattering my memories with it. Memories of getting ready for the countless palli perunnaals and weddings with all my aunts as they dabbed Ponds cream or Cuticura powder, depending on the type of skin and kohl lined their eyes and drew those long vertical lines as pottus on their foreheads and a dot on my cheek also known as “beauty spot” in Kerala [:p] and adorned their hair with jasmine or a rose from the garden! What a lot of noise, smells and colors and feminine bonding…and memories.

Soon I started noticing a lot of these old bottles and tins of brands that have changed so much over the years that they bear little resemblance to their old selves. Fascinated by their shapes and sizes, I started collecting these old receptacles taking permission from people who owned them and who parted willingly with them, amused at my fascination with the “junk”. I now have a box full of this stuff waiting to be put up at the new shelf in my bedroom as my mom will not have anything of it in the living room!

Recently my uncle told me of a box in the attic of our ancestral house in Kerala and I found a treasure trove of stuff like Himalaya Snow Cream bottles, those colored Vaseline jars, Hair oil bottles ( *ugh* remember those scented hair oils?), old Nivea tins, Navy brand shoe whitening cake tins, old Farex tins with the baby face and colorful bottles with no labels and a whole lot more dating back to almost 50 years! Thank god for the culture of recycling present in those times! I am sure if I comb the huge house I will find more and that is what I will do when I go home next.

You find these stuff in the most unseemly places too!! An even older Farex tin with the red and gold lettering was used to keep Ayurvedic powders wrapped in old issues of Malayala Manorama forgotten and untouched for so many years in an old wooden cupboard somewhere is the deep recesses of the old house!. A typical Kerala country house and kitchen will have many of these remnants of the past. And since both the parents homes have not been renovated for a long time due to their architectural significance, we have thankfully not lost some of these memories bottled inside those old bottles, tins and jars. If you chance upon a relic of those times when consumerism was unknown and a few brands held sway and people identified with a particular brand unlike now, don’t throw them away…keep them as a reminder of a simpler life and simpler times.

Here is a blog devoted to old magazine ads. And here's one I found on old Indian ads that show the products as they were then.


Karthik said...

Hey! Don't throw away that Farex tin.

John Abraham was the first Farex baby in the ads.

I heard of this at one his interviews by Simi Garewal. ;-)

Nice Post :)

mathew said...

thanks for the link..that was a gem...I remember having that theepati box collection..simply lost somewhere over the passage of time..I know one person who collected soap covers too and proudly displayed it in the show case.

My uncle btw shares a strong bond with 'old monk' and has fond memories of particular brands...
Brandy for example.

Nikhil Narayanan said...

First things first, thanks for the link back.
I love these things..and have always been reading the expiry date and "Made In" for anything and everything I buy/lay my hands across. Even if someone gifts something, I ask my mom "Made in ethaa"? May be it all started when my dad asked me to keep an eye on expiry date of anything that I buy, even as a kid.(As simple as a pack of Kannan Devan tea)

I have stumbled upon old tins of Farex, Nivea etc and trust me...its a wonderful feeling to try deciphering the details on the tins, almost erased during the passage of time.


Nikhil Narayanan said...

One more Vintage ad collection, small nevertheless

Machiavelli said...

Ah for me it is...issues of 'Mathrubhumi Azchapathippu' 'Kalakaumudi' 'The Week' and 'Rreaders Digest' dating back to the early 70's that filled up my attic and which I refused to let go till it became a serious health hazard...sniff

Thomas said...

The only collection i had was the WWF trump cards aeons ago. My dad hates junk things kept at home; every week he takes all the junk and burns them and that annoys my sis, coz she is a junkie-lover like you. Yeah, as you said, she too collects powder tins and also the sweet boxes. I don't understand what's the psychology behind collecting junk. Well, to each of his own.

DD said...

Whoa! Nostalgic :)
I suddenly recollect that Cuticura was a very popular brand down south and I regularly used to find dozens of those pink dabbas lying around in the trash...mebbe it was just Trivandrum...
If you are into cars, check out the old MOPAR ads...some of them are just awesome! MOPAR collectively refers to the Chrysler, Plymouth and Dodge brands who were the guys who made most of the 'American muscle cars' which were all about sheer size and power.

| Balu | said...

oh cool so and more more mallus writing about their[I] akri [/I] collection.. me too will follow (that a threat mind u!)

PS: Did you lie abt 'I dont use orkut anymore' thingy?
how come u r still using orkut style smiley? [:p]

DD said...

Actually I am also the proud owner of a huge collection of Indian Auto, and later Auto India, and currently Overdrive magazines dating back from 1992 :)

Jiby said...

here is a youtube clip of the most famous collector of old stuff that kerala has seen! :)

silverine said...

Karthik: Then he must be a very old man cos this tin was bought in the 60's!

Mathew: I know so many people who had the theepati box collection and would stick the boxes after flattening them in notebooks like an album! :)

Nikhil: Nice post dear! Wish you had not thrown off those labels. One of the greatest tragedies of hobbies is that we destroy it when we have had enough. And thanks for the link! :)

Machiavelli: Health hazard? lol!! Must be the millions of termites and silver could have kept a few copies :)

Thomas: Ah! I have a fellow connoisseur of ze arts in your sister I see :) It must be heartbreaking to see your collection burnt!! Poor thing! My collection of stuff dates from the 70's and 60's. I have no interest in the 80's onwards though sometimes I feel that I must save my shampoo and cream bottles that I use today because it may become an artifact tomorrow! And oh yes...don't tell this to your sister :p

DD: My bro has a miniature MOPAR collection and one of these days we will have to move out of the house and onto the streets to accommodate his growing collection aided by anyone and everyone from abroad giving him a miniature car!

Balu: Would love to read about your hobby! :)

DD: Wish you had kept at least one of those Cuticura tins! They have become collectors items now :) Magazines are too bulky...which is why most of us give it away. A friend of mine devised a novel idea. She removes the interesting articles and files them. This way she has the magazine and it is manageable too :)

philip said...

Although I've not been much of a collector, I've always had this urge to go through old stuff, reading the labels and (as Nikhil says) the expiry date and made in ___ tags and ingredients.

That 'junk' says more about those times than many pages of history textbooks.

jj said...

My father and I share a common interest here.. we just can't throw away pens !

silverine said...

Jiby: oops missed you out while replying earlier. Thanks for the link :p

Philip: You are right..these things are like time machines taking you back in time!

JJ: Then you must have quite a collection by now!! :)

Neena Padayatty said...

Send me back to the days i used to collect Nestle Polo wrappers...absolutely loved the peppermint smell...also the sweet wrappers;that shiny purple of Dairy Milk is so tempting even after the chocolate is part of ur system.Also have a collection of glossy pamphlets from exhibitions,all the letters i ever received,and an entire scrapbook of newspaper clips on Rahul Dravid(dating frm '97,when he was only an upcoming player).Have dropped the habit but the collections remain...Wonderful post!

Adorable Pancreas said...

I remember those old Cuticura tins... Ginormous, they were, and I hated the smell!

I don't think Keo Karpin's changed much. Amma bought a bottle recently, and I was immediately a three year old butterfingers. I haven't seen Boroline on the shelves now. That dark green tube was reassuring, when Butterfingers 'accidentally' played with matches.

And don't forget the old ads. The weird bunny in Lijjat Papad, Vicco turmeric nahi cosmetic, I'm a complan boy (that was Shahid Kapoor, by the way)... I now feel like a relic from ancient times. :D

g-man said...

i just have tonnes of marbles in my draw. i guess i'm kinda obsessed with them...take one look and go 'o0o round, shiny thingy! must pick up!!!!!' :D

check out this link when you have the time >:)

Deepti said...

Loved the post :) I collect story books... right from enid blyton , tinkle, archies and many more... Difficult to maintain the collection!! :(

pri said...

wow..thats amazing! could u post a pic of all the vintage goodies? pretty please!