An addiction hard to explain
A Different Spin
The Star Metro - 19th August 2011
By DAPHNE IKINGWHEN playing ‘house’ as a child growing up in Canterbury, my self-made purse contained Monopoly money, a mirror of an empty compact powder taken from mum’s dresser, a hanky and a half-full bottle of Minyak Angin Cap Kapak.My Caucasian playmates would either ridicule me or sniff in curiosity this minty smelling concoction that I would carry around instead of the more popular (or accepted) Barbie lipstick and/or a mini hairbrush.For as long as I can remember, my family always had some form of menthol smelling oil or ointment lying at home.
It was the ‘magic remedy’ for nausea, headaches, stomach-aches, colds and even insect bites.
How Colgate is to toothpaste, Cakapak to the Ikings was anything of that similar smell and purpose. From the Malaysian brand Minyak Angin Cap Kapak — to Vicks, Tiger Balm, Yu Yee Oil Cap Limau, Bosisto’s Parrot Brand, Telon Oil and Vapex — all of which have similar ingredients of menthol crystals, camphor and sometimes, eucalyptus oil.
Many Asian homes introduce this distinct smelling oil to even the newest addition of the family.
A bit of oil is rubbed gently onto the tummy of a newborn and then swathed with a mini bengkung or tummy wrap, believed to reduce wind trapped in the stomach. I love the smell of newborn babies who have just bathed for this reason.
You know how songs and smells remind you of special moments in your life? Well, the smell of Cakapak takes me back to memories of comfort, happiness and home.
This ‘miracle wonder’ is not always welcomed by every member of the family. My sister simply hated the smell because it reminded her of sick people and she would feign nausea every time she caught a whiff of it, to which my younger brother would cheekily grab a bottle and say “nah kak…Cakapak!”
Years later, it evolved and came in a form of the nasal inhaler. The little white nozzle plugs into the nose and finds itself in the pockets of those who have grown attached to it.
I have early morning sinusitis, so I never leave home without my cylinder buddy. I am also very sensitive to stinky odours and sniffing my inhaler or rubbing a bit of balm underneath my nose helps mask or purge any unbearable smell.
It also comes handy when entertaining young children (or childlike adults).
Just stuff an inhaler (or two) up your nose — and voila! Perfect way to keep the kids smiling when complemented with a few animated gestures and sounds!
My ever-so-sensible sister told me that my “ridiculous addiction” to theCakapak was worrisome.
Even more when I started a trend in highschool of carrying it around and using it like perfume.
It did become a fashion fad (along with the brightly coloured flannel hankies that I would hang loosely in my pocket to add a bit of zest to the horrible blue pinafore).
I started a trend of drilling a hole on my inhaler and hanging it around my neck — my cool version of a ‘medicinal doggy tag’ and I was constantly swirling it around during sports and choir practice. It was also my lucky charm — or so I liked to believe.
My sister might be right about this addiction though. Even when I’m not suffering from a cold or headache, or when the air is sweet-smelling, I find myself habitually sniffing the plastic tube or rubbing the fragrant fatty ointment under my nose.
I guess I just like the nice smell in my nose.
So forget the mobile phone, wallet and keys. My essential must-have is this sharp, minty zing of the Cakapak. It’s cool in every aspect of the way.
Daphne is delighted that she can whip her cylindrical companion without odd stares here in Thailand. The Thais support this vapour fetish or known to them as the yaa dom and is toted like any other cosmetic, serving as a socially accepted prop and as an alternative to smoking. Daphne can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or via twitter @daphCLPT.