Are you triggered yet?
To be clear, I, Sanjay Manaktala am
- used to be overweight (I still have a gut that will never go)
- worn deodorant since I was 15 years old before Axe thought it was cool.
- stink when I don’t wear deodorant, even more so after 30. Especially if I use a new brand for some reason.
- Will happily tell my brother or mom or even wife if they stink, and vice versa
- stand up comedian and host of one of India’s top podcasts, the Birdy Num Num podcast.
In this post, I’m going to answer some of our reader’s Instagram questions on body odor, grooming, and how hygiene will honestly fix your life.
If you’re also wondering why that dude in your office or tech team has a strange whiff, this should answer most of it too.
Why do Indians Smell?
I had a friend who had all the money in the world, worked at McKinsey, went to Harvard, yet couldn’t land a date if his life depended on it.
He was miserable, constantly wallowing in self-pity while driving his Mercedes.
To himself, he was confused beyond belief. Harvard MBA, decent looks, great career and family on paper…what the heck is going on?
But to the rest of us, even a stranger or a waiter could spend 10 seconds with him and figure out what lacking self-awareness had hidden from him.
HE SMELLED HORRIBLE. DAILY.
Bad breath, bad body odor, and just unpleasant to be around.
So my other best friend and I did what good friends do.
We chickened out and wrote an anonymous email because we didn’t want to hurt his feelings (more so for our own selfish reasons but we wanted to help.)
“Hey, you don’t know me, but I worked with you or studied with you many years ago. I always saw you working so hard at life and succeeding but also saw you being frustrated with the personal front. I want to see you succeed there too, and it’s something so simple you just need to fix. Just please wear deodorant daily, and all your life problems will get fixed. You stink really bad and it’s a turn off for a lot of people.”One of my first emails from my junk hotmail account.
6 months later I was crashing at his house, opened up his medicine cabinet and saw a million cologne bottles, mouth wash, deodorants, body sprays, the works.
A year later he was engaged.
Why Don’t Indians Wear Deodorant?
So why do some Indian dudes smell bad? Because growing up, deodorant was a western thing, and it’s still catching on.
We didn’t think it was important.
My own mom never told me about it, I just figured it out from TV commercials of being a teenager in America. The white kids in middle-school weren’t shy about letting me know “I smelled like sweaty curry”, and oddly enough as mean as teenagers are…I’m glad they did.
I mean, come on…deodorant sales in India are skyrocketing.
In fact, deodorants in India revenue are expected to grow 25% year on year. (Source.) It used to be a luxury item, but now it’s affordable for pretty much anyone and will take some time to adopt.
Everyone in our country loves a little spice, but that heat it brings means you gotta love some Old Spice as well.
WAIT, EVERYBODY SMELLS, WHY ARE YOU TARGETING INDIANS?
Yes, you’re 100% right.
Every group of people has smelly stinkers.
But most of us in desi communities, myself included, never got it ingrained in our heads that deodorant should be like brushing your teeth. We tread lightly on the topic rather than confronting it head-on.
But why are we so sensitive about something so obvious, that in extreme weather and sweaty situations, you need to put on some deo bro.
Just like we have to find a way to let American people know that TOILET paper IS DISGUSTING, we need to encourage our South Asian brothers and sisters that deodorant is actually spot-on awesome.
In fact, I used to see guys in my IT company office spend 20 minutes after lunch combing their hair in the men’s washroom, but not realize that it didn’t matter because nobody wanted to sit within 5 feet of them.
And then those same guys start trolling people online because they have a frustrated sex life or who knows what.
You feel me?
India is about 5-10 years behind on the BO elimination wave, and the more we help our friends and family realize they’re adding some stank into the mix, the more we all benefit.
Personal hygiene and grooming are a $2 or an INR 150 investment.
It’s no longer a luxury item, but adoption for the masses will still take some time. So if someone in your gym or work or school or family is stinking it up, do your civic duty and clean it up.
WHEN YOU HELP SOMEONE SMELL GOOD, YOU HELP THEM BE GOOD. AT LIFE.
We all know that guy or girl who stinks, and nobody tells them. Because they’re scared of hurting their feelings. But guess what continuous rejection and not knowing what they’re doing wrong is also doing?
It’s hurting them a lot more than you worrying about their feelings.
If you find a nice or anonymous way to tell them they smell, guess what?
- They’ll likely do something about it.
- They’ll build more confidence.
- They’ll do better at work, life love, and more.
- But most importantly…they’ll know.
How to Get Someone to Smell Better Politely?
- You can talk to another coworker (in front of the smelly one) and discuss how some other, made up person didn’t wear deodorant at a restaurant you were at over the weekend and it ruined your date or whatever. The second person can also say “Wow, who doesn’t wear deodorant!?” and drop a massive hint to the stinker.
- You can gift everyone (including them) a $10-20 bottle of cologne and also use it yourself at work.
- You can send them an anonymous email like I did.
- In India…and I’ve heard this many times…bosses and coworkers just tell their employees outright. In fact, in some tech companies, they’ve sent colleagues home to go shower!
Body Odor Shouldn’t Be Taboo or Hygiene Products Thought of as a WESTERN thing
Yes, I know that we use talcum powder, saffron, and we have whatever other natural remedies for fragrance and all that stuff.
I’m all for it.
You want to spend an hour with coconut oil and lotions every evening, be my guest.
But you and I use Google and Chinese goods every day, so please cut the crap that you don’t buy into that western stuff.
Proctor and Gamble aren’t evil, although sure, big bad corporations have their issues.
We modernize every single fact of our lives, so let’s recognize we need to modernize our approach to hygiene.
Two swipes of two pits will save you a lifetime of despair.
The simple issue is a lot of us know that person who stinks, probably ARE that person who stinks, and we have a hard time dealing with it in this country or in our international desi communities.
I’ve heard stories from the IT world of managers who had to tell an employee to leave the room and go back and shower or spray some cologne.
I’m 100% serious.
Does it need to get to that?
Deodorant technology has come a long way, trust me. One dab in the morning will keep you going until 10 PM, even in that crazy Chennai or Mumbai summers.
As you smell less and trust me, nobody can really smell themselves…all the other things in life will fall into place.
That will increase your money, career, dating, love life and probably personal happiness.
Although no guarantees on the last one. Happiness is still super elusive to most of us.
Sanjay Manaktala is one of the top stand up comedians in India who started building the comedy community in the country back in 2010. Since then his stand up comedy videos and podcasts have helped millions laugh or get motivated. His latest effort is the Birdy Num Num podcast, helping you learn creativity in life after engineering. You can learn about Sanjay here or check out his YouTube channel here.