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BLOG - ER Ramachandran

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Babying the hair!

How did mothers and grandmothers look after their hair when they were young? Did they have mind-boggling range of hair oils to choose from, a bewildering variety of shampoo and an equal number of conditioners to wash off the oil and lather, and dryers throwing up hot air?

Most of them swore by coconut hair oil, the pure variety from Kerala and Thiptur famous for swaying coconuts trees. Some times an Ajji or Pati would add specific churnas like neem to bring luster and bounce to the tresses once washed. After rinsing in hot water, washing it with seegekayi ( sheekakai ) powder made into a fine paste would cleanse the hair thoroughly. This was the secret of their long dense thick and black hair, some of them having, almost down to their knees. It was like this from ages. When I say ages, I mean down from Ramayana and Mahabharath days. Nobody ever heard of a Sita, Draupadi, Damayanthi and Menaka or for that matter saints like Vashista or Vishwamitra ever complain of lice, tics or worms, then. At least the Great Epics do not record their complaints.

Till recently most of the family members were given oil bath on Sundays, with different strokes for different people. While men lounged around for the oil to soak-in and finally had hot water poured on them with a brisk massage of their backs in between, it was all different for the ladies at home. First a generous helping of Keshavardhini pure coconut oil and a thorough massage of the scalp, hot water followed by generous application of seegekayi made into a paste. The deadly combo of seegekayi and hot water would remove all traces of oil leaving a lustrous bouncy long tress.

The final babying of hair would come as the lady lay on the ground, grandma would light sambrahni with a burning charcoal under a cane basket whose aromatic fumes would dry the tresses spread around the basket and swirl around the house spreading the fragrance.

How is it done nowadays? It is just a comparison to see how times have changed!

I have been to houses of my friends on Sundays mornings to see the ladies give a sumptuous meal of white and yellow of eggs directly poured on their heads, patting their head as if it is a Nirlep thava while my friend sat there in a corner looking famished with just a couple of bread slices, remembering the salad days of omelets and fried eggs with sunny-side up for his breakfast.

In some houses, ladies poured freshly prepared chilled yoghurt on their heads mixing it with well- mashed ripe banana into a fine messy paste; subsequently a freshly crushed orange juice mixed 50:50 with home made wine and a tsp of butter with a pinch of henna would land at the same site. This seasoning would continue non-stop for half an hour while my friend ate dry upma with coffee for breakfast from a flask. After the ritual of a long rich breakfast for hair, next came the most comprehensive bath for hair, which was just a part of a body. They were washed with rich shampoo made richer with all the herbs available in sub Saharan forests, aloe vera mixed with fresh vegetables available in Mylapore and Mysore. The green, not the yellow variety, lemon grown in Venezuela, ginger from Argentina was mixed and crushed with holy water, from Haridwar on top of the head.

The babying of hair with breakfast food was supposed to give rich well- fed look to the lady next to a permanently starved- looking husband, his hungry beady eyes eagerly searching for free food from any quarter possible.

When such a costly mixture cheaply called ‘shampoo’ was used to remove the breakfast sitting on the head, week after week, naturally it would create such a big hole in all pant pockets. Once an anxious friend –cum- bank accountant warned me I would go bald and grey around same time if I continued this rich treatment of my wife’s head!

Coming back to the days of Ajjis and Patis, during mallige season, moggina Jade was a must for the sweet grandchild of the family from flowers grown in the family garden.

Here is Aarushi fully decked up with a moggina Jade. I had the pleasure of meeting Aarushi and her Ajji in a studio last month where Aarushi had come to take a picture of her moggina Jade.


Thursday, April 16, 2009

Once upon a time, eating Nanjanagud hallupudi

I would like to share , with MBP Readers , this article which was recently published in Blog Churumuri and Mysore mail.


Our grandparents mostly used neem twigs to give a brisk rub-in to their teeth first thing in the morning. This simple device was good enough to keep their teeth clean and sparkling for almost their entire lifetime.
They ate anything from ragi mudde to jowar bhakri and chicken, pullangai unde to dink laadu.
Despite these rigours, their teeth used to be like The Wall—strong, reliable and always ready to tackle what the opposition threw at them all day. Most of our ancestors even capped their sumptuous meal by chewing the juice of a betel nut or doing a small ceremony with betel leaves, sunna and sugandhi betel nut powder.
Teeth, thus nurtured and nourished, lasted years. Tooth ache? There was always a dash of soothing lavang (clove) oil massage to calm the nerves.

They had never heard of a species called the dentist.

Then came charcoal powder, B.V. Pandit’s sweet and pinkish tooth care wonder “Nanjangud hallu pudi” in a 4-inch by 3-inch brown paper bag. You made a small, triangular hole in the corner and inverted it on your palm to pour out only that much quantity for a one-time brushing.

If a bigger heap fell out, you just ate a part of the pudi!

Using the forefinger as a brush, one stroked the power to the left and right of the mouth, brushing the teeth and strenghtening the gums at the same time. Left, right. Left, right, it went on. There were some who went on like this for ages till their mothers shouted at them to ‘stop’ it! A dash of water, rinsing and one was ready for filter coffee.

Still not many knew who or what a dentist was because he/she had yet to appear on the horizon.

Next came the era of toothpaste. Dazzling tubes with colorful caps which squirted white, red, coloured and sometimes stripes of paste! Binaca, Colgate, Kolynos, Forhan’s (”Doctor’s Toothpaste!”) without ‘jhag’ (lather).
The marketing of Binaca was done by Ameen Sayani’s ‘Binaca Geet Mala’, which the whole country heard on radio on Wednesday nights between 8 and 9, irrespective of which toothpowder or paste one used, or whether one brushed the teeth at all.
Dinner used to be after the buglers sounded the song of the week based on the 78 RPM records of Hindi film songs sold in Bombay during the week.
After toothpastes came the marketing blitzkrieg on toothbrush. Hard, medium, soft, conical, comical bristles would take care of your teeth. You could vigorously brush the enamel on your teeth to certain death.

Around that time, some doctors who, for some strange reason called ‘Dentists’ were spotted near the market area.

Soon, with the advent of peppermints, toffees and chocolates, they started multiplying like, well, flies on a sweet. As imported and local fancy chocolates entered the scene with silver and gold wrappers, dentists started opening their swanky shops complete with water jets, spittoons and high speed jets for both water and hot-air.
People casually started dropping words like “I have an appointment with my dentist” in the middle of a conversation. “Excuse me; I have to see my dentist.” The dentist replaced your tooth with a gold, silver, even a diamond tooth like a diamond ear-ring depending on the bulge of your purse.
Models smiling from ear-to-ear for no reason and doctors in front of tooth cutouts started appearing on TV forcing Babloos and Chintus to smile, again, for no reason.

Soon after, electric tooth brushes arrived, enabling busy people to brush their teeth with a whirr, just like they shaved with an electric shaver. You could get a shining sparkling set of teeth not by old fashioned brushing, but by electrolysis which simultaneously made a big hole in your pocket.
You could keep on X-raying your errant tooth till, by the sheer dosage, your tooth could get tuberculosis.

Now like the software scenario, the toothpaste bubble seems to have burst. Leading orthodontists are now saying electrolysis weakens the gums and is dangerous to the heart. Oral scientists and orthopantomographists are saying grandma’s methods like brushing with fingers and using neem twigs are best and it is the best way of taking care of your teeth!

The future, thank god, is going back to the past!

Rahul (in picture) is indeed happy now.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Namdroling Tibetan Golden Temple Bylakuppe near Mysore

When the spiritual Guru of Tibetans His Holiness The Dalai Lama fled Tibet with his followers, India was the only country that gave place to settle the refugees in Dharmsala in North and Bylakuppe, Kodagu district near Mysore in South. Recently they celebrated their Fifty years of exile in India and thanked the Indian Government for resettling them in an alien place and embraced them as their own.
It is never easy that a civilization can be transplanted in a totally alien climate. There are several factors like the culture, ethos, language and living style comes in the way of a successful implant. There is always a foreign body rejection possibility not to speak of Insiders’ vs. Outsiders’ scenario. Such being the case most of times distrust gives way to disharmony and finally the outsiders have to leave.
It is to the everlasting credit to India, it gave place and helped them to take roots in India by giving their children education, land for agriculture and finance them for small business.

Today Bylakuppe is a well- settled race of Tibetans among Mysoreans and Kodavas. After 50 years, their children work in hospitals, shops and offices.

What is heartening is, Tibetans have maintained their culture intact. Their Namdroling Tibetan monastery Golden Temple with statue of Lord Buddha in Bylakuppe is a major tourists Center where you will find hundreds of young Tibetans at pray.

How many countries could have done what India itself, not very well off, did 50 years ago? It is something that we can be rightly proud of.

Again India is perhaps the only Country which has helped her neighbors in times of war and has returned after the work was over and has not occupied the Land. History is full of accounts where the victor has never left the land entirely after the work was over. From both Bangladesh and Sri Lanka India completed the operation successfully and did not stay there.