My sandalwood soap

Fawn and I honeymooned in India. While in the grand old palace city of Mysore in the south, we bought up a load of sandalwood soap. I’ve been using the stuff for the 20-plus years since.

I realize that one’s soap isn’t much of a topic to explore. But I’m a believer that there are universes of truth in smaller things.

To stay with my sandalwood soap, I’ve had to keep the stuff in my head, to plan around maintaining my supply of the stuff. Now that I’m in Albany, this is relatively simple. I have a choice of Indian markets to choose from. When I lived in Catskill, I’d have to replenish my supply whenever we traveled to New York City.


I tried out bars of Chinese sandalwood soap available at several local health-food stores, but they weren’t the same. I also tried other soaps, but ended up missing the Mysore.

How do we settle on a peculiar habit? My experience with sandalwood is different from my son’s assumption of his daddy’s soap as his. I had tastes my father passed on to me. I’ve changed most. I’ve tried brands of toothpaste, shampoo, laundry detergent and dish soap. As a family, we’ve settled on some things as accepted favorites.

I tried black toothpaste from India, but found it horrendous. I found some great localized items that then disappeared. One time we had a cat which became addicted to a brand of cat food that was then discontinued. It took nearly a year to get that cat back to eating regularly.

Every time I take a bath, my Mysore sandalwood soap envelops me in an active memory of the few days Fawn and I spent in that magical city. where we found ourselves overwhelmed by crowds, noise, smells, tastes.

We were able to regroup and head back out for several more weeks of travel that have somehow expanded and sustained our sense of the world ever since. We classify ourselves as an adventurous couple always ready for new journeys and experiences.

Unless it comes to soap. Or at least which soap I keep in my own home for myself.

Read more installments of Village Voices by Paul Smart.