My 805 train reaches New Addington. New Addington station is a major interchange for buses and trains. In the morning rush hour, lots of people get on this Wimbledon-bound train while fewer people get off at stops that feed the residential areas on this tram network. At stops like Sandilands, East Croydon and East Street, which are more cosmopolitan areas with major train and bus links to the west end, south-west, south-east and indeed to stations outside London, a massive exodus of commuters get off. With this exodus atmospheric lightness gains ground- the difference is ever so clear!
We leave New Addington in this huge, compartmentalised, windy, public transport with its hotdogs in brine mostly standing a breath away from each other. Four stops further is Sandilands. Quite a number of commuters exit the train and huge numbers wait to hop on. By purely reflective behavior, commuters remaining on the tram, move well into the cabins to create room for those needing to get on. You never hear orders like, “Madam shift! shift!” or “Oga dress, dress!” with the accompanying, shoving and “packing” of commuters into our molues in Oshodi, Ojota and Mile-II, that our Nigerian conductors practice. Rather occasionally you may hear the PA system ask passengers with civility to, “please move well into the train/tram to allow more passengers in.”
The doors close and our tram moves on. The air on the train is now dense with aftershaves and eau-de-toilets; with bubble baths and bath oils; with deodorants and antiperspirants; with garlic and curries; with whiffs of metabolising supplement tablets and regular medication escaping from mortal man’s orifices.
Just like my 202 courses about the varieties of English at the University of Ife, approximately 30 years ago, a “variety of smells according to culture” are perceivable in the atmosphere on the train. You see, essentially every one of us is odorous. By this I mean that each of us has and emits a characteristic smell or odour. From my personal memoirs I share this with you – For a very long time, I clung onto my deceased mother’s nighties that were returned to us from the Lagos University Teaching Hospital, after she lost her battle with cancer. It was therapeutic for me to inhale her body odour from her nighties in those successive months of her demise. In fact for years, I convinced myself that I could still smell her until those nighties became mouldy and discoloured among my personal effects.
On my 8:05 train are whiffs testifying to the ‘multi-culturalness’ of the UK. The “curries” (Asians) are journeying; the “jerks” (“jamos” or Caribbeans) are journeying; “the bacons and sausages” (British) are journeying and of course the “Jollof-rice” (the black community in general) are on the train. By the way, it seems that jollof-rice is fast becoming the unifying dish of the black community in the UK. The entire air on our train is at once odoriferous and malodorous! I being very introspective decided to casually research what would make an individual to have a body odour. These, ladies and gentlemen are my humble findings:
· Excessive secretions from apocrine glands that become malodorous on bacterial breakdown. Apocrine glands are sweat glands that occur only in hairy parts of the body, especially the armpit and grown areas.
· Excessive secretions of the eccrine glands that become malodorous on bacterial break down. Eccrine glands are glands that are distributed all over the body. They are densest on the soles of the feet and palms of the hands.
· Inadequate hygiene.
· Medical or dermatologic conditions associated with hyperhidrosis or overgrowth of bacteria may contribute to the development of body odour. Examples include: Obesity, diabetes mellitus, intertrigo, trichornycosis axillaris and erythrasma.
· Nasal foreign body is reported to cause generalised bromhidrosis in the paediatric population.
· Metabolic disorders may sometimes be the cause of eccrine bromhidrosis and constipation. This may result in the common “fish odour syndrome”, “the sweaty feet syndrome” and the “odour of cat syndrome”, to mention but a few.
· Ingestion of certain foods, drugs and toxic materials may cause eccrine bromhidrosis.
· Older medical textbooks report that offensive smells were characteristics of diseases like gout, scurvy or typhoid.
· Stress whether emotional or otherwise may lead to an increased production of sweat.
· A wardrobe full of synthetic fabrics for shoes and clothes that do not allow the body to breathe.
Omoru writes from the UK
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