Mrs Chopra proudly announced, "My daughter is an avid reader she reads every label, even on food products, like this jam bottle!" I smiled involuntarily for two reasons: One, I wondered whether reading bottle labels made her 12-year-old daughter qualify as an avid reader; two, because
once upon a time, I, too, did the same thing.
Why do we feel the need to read labels of products and mundane items of everyday use? Well, there may be a genuine need to know the ingredients if someone is suffering from some kind of allergy, but sometimes it's just for the queer satisfaction you get. For instance, you might have shampooed your hair umpteen times, but every time you buy a new bottle it feels good to read about the promise of glossy, silky hair on the label. Alas, this habit dies a slow death once you cross the age of 40. You are not expected to carry your reading glasses to the dining table, are you? The print on some labels is so tiny that it's impossible to read it without spectacles.
Talking about tiny print, the worst are the medicine packs. Your eyes turn into thin slits and deep furrows mark your forehead as you strain to look for that expiry date. And lo and behold it says the expiry date is on the crimp, where we find an embossed impression even more difficult to decipher. My plea to the manufacturers is to increase the font size, please!
The label dilemma extends to clothes too. Why do manufacturers of readymade garments insist on putting their brand labels on the neckline at the back? Most often, there is some tiny nylon-like thread or a flap which pricks your skin, making you most uncomfortable. The first thing I do after I buy a new garment is to snip the offending label off. Sometimes I do feel guilty, if it is a designer piece, to have sacrificed the label at the altar of comfort. In fact, my children call me the princess of the fable, 'The Princess and the Pea'. In this tale, the ultimate proof of a true princess is that even a pea kept beneath 20 or so thick mattresses in the bed troubles her.
I'm sure many of the readers must have faced a similar plight. My daughter suggests that I start a group on Facebook crusading against uncomfortable labels. Any takers?
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