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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.

…………….
ERR

6 Comments:

  • Nicely brings back nostalgia. My oil application would begin with mother placing oil dots on lap with "Ashwathaama, Balivyaasa....", then head and eyes. Finally it would end after touching shoulder, arms, feet and ground... no idea what she did it for. Then after an hour or so, we would keep wiping the seeping oil from the forehead to stop it from entering our eyes. I have heard some children being tortured by their mothers by pouring very very hot water - which was a wrong - on their head and bodies to such an extent that they would cry. I've heard shouts from the neighbour for decades. Luckily for us, it was not so.

    I've heard of people stopping this oil bath schedule for various reasons. One of them is that their bathroom walls would become speckled by that Seegekai while rubbing the head in an effort to remove the oil from the hair. Some people don't tolerate this mess, but they can tolerate that mess sitting on their forehead as you describe - eggs, etc!!

    Also, easy to apply and rinse shampoos that are fragrant too are popular choices, but at the same time a visit to the doctor too - complaining of hair fall!! They don't know that is linked up! They see the hair trapped up in the perforated plate in the bathroom and get alarmed! Olden type bathrooms did not have this. There was just an outlet that let out morsels of food, chilli pieces etc out of washed plates - now we have separate washing areas! Keep the plates under the basin for the maid servant to wash and wash hands in the basin! So much change. During the days of yore, unless there was a disease, none complained of hair fall, did they?

    Now Shikakai soaps are available to make things easier. But the traditional methods, though we think it is messy, cannot replace the modern products. It is our outlook that has changed. And we don't know that we are suffering due to that!

    By Blogger Dinakar KR, at 7:31 AM  

  • Very nice post. I had to laugh at your descriptions of the "breakfast" items fed to the hair while the starved-looking husband looked on hungrily! I have to confess, I have been guilty of this!

    By Anonymous Kamini, at 9:21 AM  

  • such a nice post - I smiled all the way through.

    and laughed at this:
    "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."

    By Blogger RAJI MUTHUKRISHNAN, at 9:17 PM  

  • Thank you for all the hair care tips:-))
    But you don't realise that shikkai is torture when you are a kid and keep asking is it done and get whacked and open your eyes every 2nd minute and emerge red eyed and sore. What we women had to go through!
    Paying the price of shampoo is okay comparably.
    But what a nice gesture to take a pic of the child at the studio. She
    looks so importantly beautiful.

    By Blogger kallu, at 9:19 PM  

  • Cant stop laughing.....

    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...

    nd still the hair loss is there.. maybe it is because we can see those hair unlike before.

    By Blogger Happy Kitten, at 5:02 AM  

  • i might try a few of the tips i saw here:).

    By Blogger meerasworld, at 4:40 PM  

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