Life Over Books,  Parenting

Deep Rooted in Oil

I poured the warm oil in a cup, placed two wooden planks on the floor, and seated myself on another. The children knew what I was up to, hence it was time for them to play the hide and seek. Cornering them, and pinning them down between my legs, the glorious procedure of the oil bath began. The oil splattered on their head and scalp, dripping down their face, as I rubbed it deep into their skin. With the tip of my fingers I massaged the rest of the oil on to their body, with love and patience, slowly working it out in circular strokes. That’s when the kids scream out in unison- “Why do we need this horrid oil bath Amma????”

This weekend, after the ritualistic Saturday oil bath for the kids, I found myself soaked… soaked completely in nostalgia!

For as long as I can remember

Growing up in a traditional Tamil home involved the Saturday oil bath- a ritual where almost half the day was spent in it. I distinctly remember hating this way back then- the dripping oil, the burning of my eyes and the aftermath of it all. My objection, of course, seldom was taken into consideration at home. My Patti (grand mom) would heat up some sesame oil in a thick ladle, with various spices added to it. As her first handful of oil would touch my head, she would scream out, “Soodu soodu” (hot in Tamil). It is believed that the excess heat of the body could be felt on the head, and a good oil message helps to reduce this heat, relax the nerves and ease the mind.

A luxurious body massage would follow, after which the hair would be washed with a herbal mix of soapenut powder and hibiscus leaves. Tied up in a thin cotton towel, well, made especially to absorb every drop of water, the hair is allowed to dry. Patti would then infuse the fragrance of the Sambrani powder. Its fumes spread like tentacles, enveloping my entire hair and give it a divine fragrance. By this time, my stomach would let out a low growl, and I realize I sure am famished. Lunch on Saturdays too is prepared factoring the body that has just been oiled, soaked and cleansed. It would be an appetizing jeera rasam, a ground dal chutney along with a lightly steamed veggies. The outcome of it all? Glistening skin, a relaxed mind, glossy and shining hair, a languorous feeling and a long afternoon siesta.

What I hated as a child, is now a strong desire, I could do anything to get

This weekend as I completed the entire routine of oil bath for my children, I was left with a deep sadness, or rather a nostalgic feeling. How lovely it would feel- an oil bath, that refreshes you, calms you down. How I wish Patti was around to shower that kind of attention yet again. It is a sweet loving and intimate remembrance of an oil bath that seems to belong to an era that’s gone by. I knew I could never get to experience it the same way, so I just had to be satisfied with a mental journey back to my childhood times.

It seemed so strange to me that when I had it in abundance, I seldom appreciated it, or understood its value. Today I have none of it, and yet the mind understands the goodness and benefits of it, and craves it all.

Strange are the ways of life!

Have you detested something as a child, and miss it now as an adult??

*Featured Image: Pixabay
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  • Parul Thakur

    I have never heard of oil baths and that too at home. In the North, little kids get massages from mums and grand mums but this is unique. I would love to see once and then try 🙂
    There are so many things we ran away from as a kid but now as adults, we miss all of them.

  • Sanch @ Sanch Writes

    I don’t think we had a full oil bath but definitely head massages. I hated having to oil my hair and refused to do it on a daily basis but was okay with it on a Sunday when I could wash it soon after. I know what you mean though about things we complain about as kids and now miss as adults

  • d3athlily

    I had no idea about this practice before this post, but your words put me right there in the ritual with you and your children. I am curious the reason behind the oil baths now. I’ve opened a google search to learn more. hehe

  • Stacie

    So interesting! I’ve never had an oil bath. I guess the closest I’ve come is sometimes having small amounts of essential oils as part of a massage (which is extremely infrequent for me, though I do love them).

  • Shilpa Gupte

    Ah! Sheer bliss! Just reading about your childhood ritual made me wish I was part of your family! 😀

    I know, there are so many things we detest as kids, but miss sorely as adults. For me, it’s just being with mom, 24X7, that I miss now. As a kid, I loved the outdoors and as a young girl, I preferred my friends. Now, I have to make do with just the phone calls or visits on weekends to meet mum. 😦

  • Kalpana Manivannan

    Your post made me relive my memories of childhood. There are so many such things that i detested then that i long for now…My mom combing and plaiting my hair, my dad force-feeding me a few more bites of idlis…so many.

  • Modern Gypsy

    Isn’t that often the way? An oil bath doesn’t sound like something a child would enjoy, but our older selves would crave for something like that! Also, I didn’t know about the smoking of oil with fragrance – I used to travel to Kerala often as a child and wondered how women’s hair often smelled so good! Now I know!! 😉

  • the bespectacled mother

    This post made me think about the work our previous generation had, especially the ladies. I know South Indian meals are quite elaborate requiring a lot of effort and on top of that the task of giving oil baths to the children of the family/household, wasn’t it too much work? I feel I am already tired reading this post and thinking about everything I just now thought. But it gave me the energy to catch hold of D, between the reading and the commenting on this post, and apply oil to his hair. He has been running away from oiling since the whole week 🙂

  • Asha Rajan

    I was just talking about oil baths with my eldest (nearly 19). I miss both getting them and giving them to my children. Another sign of changing times, I suppose. Though rasam remains a staunch favourite in our house (especially when someone’s feeling unwell!).

  • Natasha

    I could actually inhale the whiff of the oil Patti applied on your hair and watch the Sunday ritual unfold in front of my eyes. I can imagine what it would have felt then and how you feel now.
    It’s uncanny how attached we are to these memories from our yesteryears years that even though made us uncomfortable then, yet how much we miss them now.
    I have so many of those.

    Lovely post Ramya.

  • Meenakshi

    You know what…You have brought back so many wonderful memories associated with Oil bath through this wonderful post,Ramya. Everything happened as you have described at my place too and you know why! By the way, did your paati too snap her fingers after a nice hair wash in order to check if there is any trace of oil left ? I used to love that self-check procedure….

  • BellyBytes

    Brought back memories of oil baths for me too . I actually loved the head massage but we didn’t have the other stuff that went with it. One childhood thing I hated was moving daal khichadi which I swore I’d never have in my home but miss it as an adult

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