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.