As a girl, I sat on a stool
the ayyamma liberally smothered sesame oil
on my head and on my body.
The oil was allowed to settle down. After fifteen minutes
she shampooed my hair with shikakai
and bathed my body with the same powder
she poured water boiled in a copper vessel
called vemba . Dried cow dung cakes were used as fuel
My mother took charge of me after the bath.
she dried the hair
by lighting sambrani holders with coal
sprinkled sambrani powder
a fragrance emanated. The hair turned absolutely dry. Sambrani was used to
ward off cold attacks.
My mother tied my hair in a loose knot.
Oil baths were on Tuesdays and Fridays
not a week passed without this ceremonial bath.
ayyamma — nanny.
sambrani— Benzoin resin.
vemba— vessel used to boil water