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