Oil Baths


Each of us has special memories of our growing up years – and as we plod through our lives now, we do remember those days, when life was so simple and uncomplicated.

One of the most wonderful memories I have is about a ritual that our family followed on Sundays. Most people in our part of the world probably had the same ritual too.

Sundays were ‘oil bath’ days. The day went something like this. We woke up at 7 a.m. and had a light breakfast. After this, my siblings and I would sit on a straw mat on the floor. Our mom would then warm oil in a small wok, to which basil leaves, pepper corn, raw rice, hibiscus flowers etc were added.

Once the oil was warm enough to say ouch! when it touched the palm of your hand, the oil massage would start.

As our mom massaged our scalps with warm oil, our whole body would relax, and eyes automatically close – it was pure bliss. Our hands, legs and faces were also massaged with oil.

We had some old frocks that we wore for this activity. We were asked to soak- in the oil for a good 45 minutes. So, during this time we sat and played all kinds of word games.

We took turns to have our baths in hot water, washing away the oil with heavenly-smelling shikakai powder.

Once all the kids were done, the adults did the same.

Oil bath days had special menus, and the food was served piping hot. The whole family would sit and eat together.

After the heavy meal, my Dad would play 70s music; the deep voices of the singers lulling us into sleep.

We would wake up refreshed and relaxed, ready to have some hot cocoa or if we were lucky, a little cup of coffee.

Oil bath days were so special. They rejuvenated our minds and bodies, and also strengthened family bonds.

Ice-cream in a Thermos


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Image courtesy – Shutterstock

It is a dehydrating, hot day. Drops of water that fall on the pavement from my water bottle, disappear instantly. It’s one of those days when you ache to jump into the pool or sit in a cool airconditioned room with the blinds drawn. Merely seeing the Sun’s brilliance from indoors is also exhausting. Phew! I can do with an ice-cream (the crushed ice variety) that comes on a stick. Mango, lemon and orange.

My thoughts run back to my childhood. Where we lived, it was cold for most of the year. Sunny days in summer were lived and enjoyed to the fullest.

The summer sun was piercing in its intensity. We spent those lazy holidays with our friends, eating sugarcane, raw mangoes and water-melons.

Ice-cream shops were in a town 5 kms away, so our only chance to eat ice-creams was when the ice-cream vendor visited our small community; a rare occurence in our lives.

But the days he visited us were red-letter days. He arrived, with a square wooden box that was mounted on a bicycle. We would run home to pester our parents. Most adults also wanted to eat so we had a win-win there!

The ice-cream man parked on a small hillock, about 150 metres from our street.

To ensure that the ice creams did not melt before they were brought home, we carried one of those big thermos flasks with us.

With mouths watering, we would thrust the money into his hands and carefully put the ice creams into the flask. These were the stick variety and his specialty was a milk-ice cream, which truly tasted like a slice of heaven.

I still remember the yellow coloured thermos; we would sling it across our shoulders and run home.

Both adults and children devoured these ice creams, till the sticks were licked clean – our hearts happy and spirits cooled!

I come back to the here and now. I take matters into my hands; I walk down to the supermarket, pick up a lemon-vanilla stick ice-cream lolly and relive those days all over again.

Superhero saves the planet


When my daughter was born, life was different shades of pink. From pretty frocks to hair bands to pretty bonnets, pink ruled our lives.

With doll houses and dainty Barbies dotting our play room, little did we realize that all this was about to change, when our son was born.

The landscape now had pink oases of Barbies interspersed with metal planes, Transformers, cars and vehicles and plenty of dinosaurs roaming the terrain.

My son was in a perpetual state of motion – flying planes, fighting imaginary warriors and as a super hero, fighting hard to save the world.

A funny incident, related to this, comes to my mind.

The kids had their summer break and kept busy with their toys and games.  One of my daughter’s Barbie dolls had fallen into some wet paint, and so, had been washed and put to dry between the grills of the balcony.

Two of my son’s friends had come over to play and the boys were busy role-playing, as they spun webs, fought with plastic swords and ran about.

My son’s eyes fell on the Barbie. I was very curious to see him staring at it. He  called out in one of his super hero voices to his friends, “Come and see what I found!”

“We have found the enemy. Let’s capture her and save our planet.”

The innocent Barbie was whisked away and thrown under the cot, relegated to the darkness there.

Atleast, till his sister came to know about the incident. And then, all hell broke loose.

When the Tiger Mom Froze


Truth be told, there is a Tiger Mom lurking inside me, that manifests now and then, when my children have school deadlines or competitions.

A couple of years ago, my son made it to the finals of a quiz contest.  The Tiger Mom in me surfaced as I helped my son prepare. We had lists and sub-lists. During this time, we traveled the world looking at pictures of monuments, memorized dates, learnt about animal record-holders from the biggest eyeball, to the longest tongue to the shortest lifespan.

We developed techniques to remember country flags, and famous personalities. We learnt nursery rhymes and studied picture clues.  And finally, finally, I felt my little cub was ready for the contest.  Phew!

A couple of days before the contest, when he came back from school, I pestered him with questions about quiz-preparations they had done at school that day.

He briefed me on the topics his team had revised and then asked me, “Do you know what IAS stands for?”

I froze.  

We had not prepared for three letter acronyms.  Was this a new topic? My brain was in a whirl, as I wondered what acronyms I could teach him in two days?  UN, WHO, UNICEF, IAS (Indian Administrative Service), what else ?

I said to myself, “List time.”

When I looked at my son, he smiled and said, “Don’t worry mom, I know what IAS stands for, it stands for I Am Starving – IAS.”

I laughed at the joke, but more from sheer relief!

My Nephew and The Grim-Looking Musicians


My two and a half-year old nephew had come to stay with us last year during the holidays, with his parents.

He took time to adjust to his new environs. We allowed him to explore our home at his own pace. Left to himself, he walked around, curious, touching this, feeling that.

I wondered what my home looked like from his height. He spent a lot of time getting on and off the small step between the living room and the kitchen. When he caught us staring, he would laugh and run away to find his mom.

However, there was one thing that puzzled me about his morning sojourns in the living room.

We have a set of rather grim-looking musician dolls made of wood, from India, in our living room.

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The Grim Musicians

Almost every day that he was in our home, my nephew went to these dolls, touched one of them in particular, for a while. His lips then trembled; and his eyes blinked rapidly and filled with tears.

He would then walk away trying to compose himself, and was soon distracted by other things.

We wondered if the grim-musicians with their big eyes and dark mustaches where scaring our little boy. But we reasoned that if he was afraid he wouldn’t keep going to touch them everyday. The same routine continued everyday and our puzzle remained unsolved.

Just two days before he left, he was back with the grim-musicians on his morning beat, and looked up at us with eyes brimming with tears.

When my sister asked him why he was sad, we finally had an answer. In his baby voice he replied, “Grampa is singing…Grampa is singing.”

He burst into tears. We then realized that his paternal grandfather has a mustache, and also sings to him everyday.

In one of those grim-faced musicians, he saw his grampa and probably pined for him everyday.

We gathered him for a collective bear-hug, and then connected him on Skype to his grampa.

Sunburnt Scarecrows


These days, I try to follow a good skin regimen, as I can no longer take my skin for granted.

As I vigorously apply sun block, I remember the halcyon days of my childhood, when we soaked and drenched in the blazing sun, without a care in the world.

Where I grew up, winter evenings were bitterly cold, but the days were very hot, with a piercing sun that beat down mercilessly.

For all our moms, this was the season for ‘vadams’.

Vadams are made from cooked rice or sago, with green chillies, salt and asafoetida added. The whole mixture is cooked till it bubbles, and looks glass-like. The mixture is then scooped out with ladles and transferred to plastic sheets, shaped like small patties. These are then kept in the sun for 4-5 days till completely dry, stored in air-tight containers and fried, whenever required.

The back yards of all homes bustled with activity. We children were given the roles of scarecrows to keep away crows and other birds.

We would spend the whole day in the yard, shooing away birds, playing hide and seek, cards, and other games.

We looked like roasted potatoes, as the sun dried both the vadams and our skins.

The best part about this whole activity was when the vadams were semi-dry; dry on the outside but still gooey on the inside.

As we scarecrows ran in and out, we quietly helped ourselves to the half-dried vadams. On a single day we could eat about twenty or thirty such.

Breakfast and lunch were also eaten in the yard as scarecrow teams from other yards waved out to us.

My grandma sat with her back to the sun, on a low stool, warming herself, chuckling as she saw us gobble-up the vadams. She named us ‘the sunburnt scarecrows’.

We were sorry when the season ended and school reopened.

Salty Saturday


When we were growing up, weekends were fun days, except for one specific ritual on Saturday mornings that we had to follow.  My Dad had read a book on herbal medicine that advocated the use of salt, at least once every week, instead of toothpaste, to brush your teeth.

We woke up on Saturdays to small cups filled with salt, for each of us. My father stood and watched, as we brushed with eyes squirming. We would all go from sleepy to fully alert in a matter of seconds, as the salt overrode all our other senses.

Ugh! We grimaced at each other, but our Dad stood quite unmoved.

Needless to say, that was the first ritual I knocked off my list, when I left home for University.

A few years ago, when I was quaking in a dentist’s chair, she commended me on well-preserved teeth. Jokingly, I told her that it was because of the once-a-week-salt toothpaste I used as a child.

She looked disbelievingly and laughed. I laughed with her too.

Recently, when I was stocking up routine stuff for the house at the supermarket, I walked down the aisle that had oral hygiene products and guess what? There was Colgate Active Salt toothpaste.

Hmmmmm…..maybe I should get my kids started on the Salty Saturday routine.

Childhood Treasures


It is cleaning time at home. Today I attack the children’s room.  There is a box labeled ‘to be sorted later’, which has art and other school projects that the children have worked on, over the years.  The idea is to make a scrapbook (digital or physical) of these ‘great pieces of art’ that have been instrumental in moulding the children’s personalities.  Today, I decide to get started on this task with fervour.  Setting a deadline of three hours, within which to get a broad sorting done, I plunge into the task.
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Soon, I see the first drawing my daughter ever made of a small girl with curly hair.

I see a green parrot with a red beak.

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I see my son playing weather man, when he actually  made a weather report for the week, after studying the topic ‘weather’ at school. He predicted rain on Thursday!!

I see the world through their eyes, Dad & Mom stick figures with red hearts filled with such innocent and pure love.

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I see mom’s day cards with the pure and innocent love that only children can give unselfishly; I have been given a ‘ruby’, which is somehow more precious to my son than a ‘diamond’, as he has made a special mention of this fact.

I see their simple sketches of a  girl taking her dog out for a walk on a warm sunny day. I see three chickens hatching from Easter eggs.Slide14Slide2

I see their interpretation of a green meadow, with clumps of grass across the page.  I see rainbow coloured elephants and a happy rabbit bounding in a jungle with beautiful butterflies for company.

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I see a desert scene with camels and the Sphinx, I see walruses with two ‘tusksksk’ (not sure of the spelling here), I see ‘dizines’ of flowers and a ‘rangoli’ crafted out of paper.

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I see the repetition of a ‘mom’ & ‘dad’ pattern.

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I see three simple sketches of a hen, corn and the Sun, with labels.

I also see a multi-coloured rooster with an equally vibrant worm on a farm

rooster& a grass hopper in green grass.

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I see a Happy Diwali card and a perfectly juicy summery water-melon; I see a bird guarding her nest, a half-completed fire-spewing dragon, and simple sketches of lions.

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I try to go back in time to see what those afternoons or evenings were like, when the children expressed their creativity through these drawings.  Some I remember, most I don’t.  Did a story that they hear in school cause them to draw what they did? Where did these vibrant colours come from, where did these concepts come from?

When I show it them now, they laugh and giggle as they see each of their drawings.  My son says, “Did we really do that?  Was that actually my very first drawing?”

My daughter is very happy that I have saved all these.  The Easter Eggs were her pre-nursery project, nearly a decade ago.  How time has flown. I am so glad I saved these drawings, so glad I could share it with the children and show them how unique and creative both of them are, and encourage them to spend more time expressing their creativity.

Now, I am ready to scan these pictures.  As I pick up the drawings and move towards the scanner, a small paper flies out of the pile.  I stop to pick it up and then my eyes mist over.  It is a cut-out of my son’s palm…I presume that the topic assigned was, ‘Write a few things about hands’.

With all his innocence my son has written these three sentences about ‘hands’.

“Just like our fingerprints, we are different too.”

“Lend a helping hand for people who need it.”Presentation2

“Our hands are some of the body parts that help us bond with others.”

Needless to say, my 3 hours stretched to almost the whole afternoon and early evening.  I carry these new treasures to digitize them and relive my children’s childhoods.

                      nimi naren, 29 Jan 2015