A childhood ritual

Rituals are born of repetition. Do something often enough and you have just created a ritual. Often they are all that remains of a person’s memory. Today as I bathed, I remembered my childhood bathing rituals.

My mother used to make homemade shampoo using reetha (soap nuts) and shikakai (acacia concinna), which would be crushed and boiled after removing the black seeds of the soap nut. It would be left to soak overnight, heated again the next day, strained and the shampoo was ready.

Since we didn’t have a geyser, water would be boiled separately, mixed with cold water and used. For a number of years, shampooing would involve mom making the shampoo, then standing behind me while pouring the mixture (it stung the eyes) and washing it out with water. It seemed a long, burdensome and awkward ritual back then.

Today, as I shampooed with a mixture made following the same steps, I missed mom intensely. One gets over everything except the touch of a person.

While the shampoo ritual stopped as I grew up (though she still made it for me) another took precedence. Right till a few months before she died, she would apply oil to my hair and tie it up for me. It irritated me at times and I would hurry her along. But when she passed away, that’s one of the first things I dearly missed. Dad sensed it and being a really great dad offered to apply oil to hair, bringing tears to my eyes.


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