May 14, 2021

Sake Dean Mahomed, the shampoo exporter to Europe | Culture

Sake Dean Mahomed, the shampoo exporter to Europe | Culture

A great culture of his place of birth, India, and a good learning in what would be his destination, the England of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, served him Sake Dean Mahomed to build a future and an image based on good publicity in innovative businesses. Afterwards, the 'word of mouth' was in charge of catapulting him to success in most of his activities, making his fame such that he was even known by the name of Dr. Brighton and was at the service of the kings Jorge IV and Guillermo IV.

Adventurer and traveler, his time in the army also served him to learn alchemy techniques to obtain soaps, become a great historical narrator and end up becoming an entrepreneur after emigrating to Britain along with who until then had been their captain at the front.

More than 90 years of life contemplated Dean Mahomed, who left his country when he was 25 years old, he added the title of Sake (a variation of Sheikh to his name) when he acquired fame, he reinvented himself several times during his and he even added ten years to the age he said he had to make the curriculum he built from his past more credible. However, what can not be denied is that he always knew how to take advantage of his Indian origin to establish cultural connections between India and Great Britain.

Sake Dean Mahomed was born in 1759 in Patna, (India). With only 11 years he joined the Army of the East India Company, serving as a soldier in the Bengal Regiment under the command of the Irish Captain Godfrey Baker. After 13 years of active service in the army, in 1784 Mahomed followed Baker on his retreat to his Irish home in Cork. The friendship between them made Baker treat the young Indian like a son and pay for his studies at a humble local school to improve his English skills and learn literature.

Another student at that school, Jane Daly, caught the attention of Mahomed and fell in love, but the Daly family opposed their relationship, so the couple escaped to another city to marry in 1786. Mahomed converted from Islam to Protestantism, but since marriages between Protestants and Catholics were illegal, he became an Anglican and that helped the community accept their multicultural union (Indian and Irish).

The couple moved to London at the beginning of the 19th century and had seven children: Rosanna, Henry, Horatio, Frederick, Arthur, Dean Mahomed and Amelia. Some of his descendants surpassed in fame Mahomed himself. For example, his son Frederick owned some famous Turkish baths in Brighton and also ran a fencing and boxing academy. His grandson of the same name, Frederick Henry Horatio Akbar Mahomed, became a doctor well known in many countries for his important contributions to the study of high blood pressure, while another of his grandchildren, James Kerriman Mahomed, ended up being Reverend.

Mahomed gained public recognition for the first time in his new homeland, by publishing his autobiography, entitled 'The Travels of Dean Mahomed'(The Travels of Dean Mahomed), which begins with the praise of Genghis Khan. Possibly unknowingly, he became the first Indian to publish a book in English, and the merit lies in that although Britain had been in India for decades, the book of Mahomed was the first opportunity for the British to see the life of the Asian country from the point of view of a native.

Sake Dean Mahomed He began to see the possibility of business, and far from living among the merchants of Indian products, the already large family settled in Portman Square, a center for high society. His first job in London was as an assistant in Sir Basil Cochrane's steam bath. He improved the bathroom with a practice he developed, called 'champi', which led to the Anglicism 'shampoo', and which came from the Hindi word 'champissage' to mean a head massage.

When advertising gave enough customers to have money, Mahomed started his own business, a restaurant, the Hindoostane Coffee House, on the west side of London, where he wanted to continue exploiting the possibilities of Indian culture. However, there was already competition in the city and in his first experience as an entrepreneur he was forced to close and declare bankruptcy.

Mahomed was already 50 years old when he had to reinvent himself and he did it again with his family, this time to Brighton, and doing it in the only job he could find: manager in a bathhouse. There he named himself "inventor of medicinal steam baths in India". Sake Dean Mahomed he risked everything he had in his new life and added the title Sake to his name, embellished his curriculum to include medical studies in India before joining the army and added ten years to his age to make his experience more credible.

From that moment Dean Mahomed announced his Indian oils and herbal treatments as a cure for various ailments. He won the initial rejection and distrust with free treatments for those who did not get relief from diseases such as asthma, paralysis and rheumatism and began to do a marketing that at the time was not even presupposed its existence by filling his consultation with crutches and gadgets that said who were the people he healed. That, together with the publication of the descriptions of his treatments and the testimonies of the patients who said they had healed thanks to him, led to the boom of the business and that he became known as Dr. Brighton.

But the business of healing of Mahomed required his own establishment, so in 1821, he and Jane opened what we would today call a spa, The Baths of Mahomed, located near the coast and in which ladies and gentlemen had their facilities on separate floors and in the that there was a reading room, marble bathrooms with hot and cold water and rooms equipped for steam treatment and washing with shampoo.

The luxurious installation attracted the clientele of the British aristocratic upper class. Even the kings George IV and William IV sponsored the baths of Mahomed and benefited from the treatments, to the point that they designated him with the title of King Shampoo Surgeon.

In his time of greater fame, Mahomed became a regular at society parties and horse races, but also a very generous donor for local charities and organizer of various charitable activities throughout the year. .

In the decade of the 30s, with Mohamed already 70 years old, fierce competition began to take its toll and little by little was falling into oblivion. He opened another bathroom in London with his son but the establishment ended up going to auction. He no longer had money to buy it and the new owner hired the former employees of Mahomed and announced treatments identical to those of the Indian. Mahomed and his wife, Jane, continued to treat patients at home, but nothing was as bright or satisfactory as before.

Sake Dean Mahomed He died in 1851, after 91 years and only two months after Jane died. He was buried in a humble grave in the church of San Nicolás, in Brighton. Its forgot lasted decades until the critics uncovered their writings again and returned to the popularity their random life of inventions and businesses, especially successful as far as the beauty is concerned.

The recognition of his life and contribution of cultural exchange between India and Great Britain came on September 29, 2005, when Westminster discovered a plaque commemorating the opening of his restaurant Hindoostane. The plaque is at 102 George Street, near the restaurant's original location, at 34 George Street. The rest of humanity, unknowingly, we pay tribute daily when we massaged our head in the shower doing 'shampooing', as he defined it.


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