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Monday, August 03, 2009

Life's Little Luxuries...

Race-to-the-door mornings and tin-can-tight evenings leave little room for savoring life's beautiful moments back in my nest. But, this little break from our routine, this long-pending visit to India, this sumptuously rich opportunity is a precious gift I shall treasure always.

Breaking from my customarily sedate slacks-and-shirt or jeans-and-tee or skirt-and-blouse clad self who is too lazy to wear any jewelry except the wedding band and the same old earrings, I find that I am rather getting used to the bright shalwar-kameez, bangles, bindi and dangling earrings here - all of these accessories adding a bit of unexplainable cheer that I easily gave up a couple of decades ago, and don't seem to miss back in Portland somehow...

Slipping into local lingo, sipping tea from a roadside tea stall, I feel like a different person here. These distinct yet unified persona that I seem to be able to don and shed at will seems to strengthen my sense of self, especially when I need it most.

Somehow, I don't seem anxious to wipe down everything and the kids with oodles of anti-bacterial lotion, I don't seem to think twice about walking into a decent neighborhood restaurant and feeding idli and dosai to the kids, and I don't fret much over where the hard-working hands have been before they brought the said idli and dosai to my kids; I don't seem to mind stopping and buying a pair of pink bangles for Ana for Rs.5/- when the roadside vendor offers it enthusiastically, I don't have any problem dressing my kids in local simple cotton outfits bought after I landed, and I don't cringe as much when people I meet on the road try to pinch my kids' cheeks in an attempt to show their liking...

Maruthani (Mehendi) is a weakness, I freely admit.

And, being a bit old-fashioned, I prefer the thoppi (cap) for the fingers and little circles in my palm. None of the modern henna art designs for me. Oh, not that I don't like them, in fact henna art is itself a favorite subject of mine, but, when it comes to feeling at home, I find that getting back to the basics is all I need.

Applying it on at night after I put the kids in bed, then spreading old blankets on the floor and sleeping as carefully as possible so the effort doesn't go waste, and eagerly washing off the brown dried paste in the morning to reveal the gorgeous red dye is an experience impossible to describe.

Thanks to my Athai, who patiently picked the leaves from her garden and ground them herself, as well as sat late night after I put the kids in bed and applied it on my hands and feet, I can't get over the childish elation at seeing my hands and feet so adorned.

Thanks to maruthani and my mom, I was able to sleep through one night, one beautiful night, away from tumbling Oggie guilting me into making that 2am bottle and struggling to get back to sleep, serenely dreaming about the summers eons ago when this very same ritual was nothing much to write about.

Kasthuri Manjal. Yogurt and Aromatic Turmeric. What a lovely combination. While it is possible to apply this favorite face mask back in my nest, Time seems to prevent indulging in this simple act.

I find it very relaxing to apply this here and go about my business, even if it does get a bit annoying when Ana keeps asking, every 2 minutes, what's on my face and why I have it on...

And, it is not one bit embarrassing to me or the guest when they arrive in the middle of this herbal treatment and I answer the door looking unpolished :)


The heady scent of jasmine flowers bound together in a string adds quite a sparkle to freshly shikakai-ed hair.

As I take my time on Tuesdays and Fridays for head-to-toe oiling and a detailed warm wash of the self, then lightly braiding the still-damp hair and ornamenting it with flowers, I find that the routinely quick shampooing in the shower every other day, while great for my fast-paced life there, is not as satisfying to the soul. This little act feels like I have spent a day (and 200$) at the spa.

While occasional rose, dahlia and even the orange kanakambaram did catch my fancy, Gundu malli and Mullai (varieties of jasmine) were my two favorites when I was young. I couldn't bring myself to wear it to school - oh no, not with my white shirt, brown pinafore and black shoes. From middle school onwards, I gave up wearing bindi and flowers on a daily basis... Which made decking up for festivals and special occasions all the more wonderful for me.

Giving the kids an oil bath has been tough for me so far in my own world... Weekends being the only option, this little luxury of pampering the kids takes a back seat when it competes with the usual laundry, dishes, grocery-shopping chores in addition to cooking, vacuuming and getting ready for the week ahead.

So, now that I can afford it time-wise, I have been anointing the kids with gingelly oil and giving them a warm bath. Since their baby body-wash is quite mild, the sheen left on their skin after oil bath makes the effort more than worthwhile for me.

Sitting in their own little tubs, they seem to enjoy splashing about; and thanks to the scorching heat, after oil bath, they have lunch and take a nice long afternoon siesta, freeing me up for an hour or two to upload photos and blog a bit :)

Digging around in my mom's craft supplies and trying to do some of the little projects she has done...

July-27-2009-crafts10


Savoring the delicious local fruits...

local-fruits


These are some of the blessings I will be thanking God for when I get back.


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7 Comments:

At 12:29 PM, Blogger Lavs said...

I can see that you are enjoying every minute here...lovely lovely moments!

 
At 8:09 PM, Blogger Reva said...

Beautiful! :)
Have a great time Sheela!

 
At 9:57 AM, Blogger the conflicted cook said...

wow..this makes me so nostalgic. Esp, the henna part. When we were little, we would do the same, have it applied by grandma and sleep on old blankets on the floor so as not to mess up everything. As we got older, the mehendi cones become more fashionable. And last year when I was in India, I was shocked to find that I had to keep it on only for an hour! I was sure the commercially made henna cones were loaded with chemicals.

And the circles with the caps were the standard fare; the little ones getting smaller and more circles to fill up their palms. I also find that home made henna has this pleasant orangish hue where as cones bring out a darker maroonish shade.

Flowers, saris, jewelry, baby clothes, food, everything brings back memories. The variety of clothes available for kids is just so much more than what we have here, although I would caution every body, they are not comfortable for the most part. You play it safe if you go for simple designs in cottons and avoid the elaborate designs with hundred different materials and decorations. I would also caution against buying toys without careful inspection. They are not child safe at all.

 
At 4:36 PM, Blogger seeseebeehomestead said...

good post. After reading your post I realised this India trip is defnitely "long time" due.

Enjoy the moments . We need all those moments to cherish us during dull, moody winters here.

 
At 11:11 PM, Blogger ranjani.sathish said...

Exactly sheela !!! A lot of the things which you mentioned were the same luxuries for me when I was in Chennai during the summer hols.

Leisurely face packs (home made), gingelly oil bath for self and the kids to beat the heat, jasmine flowers in the evening (nothing can beat the heady fragrance of jathi malli..my favourite !). With everything else taking priority in our own nests, these are the simple luxuries that I also look forward to when I am at mom's place.

Oh yeah I also enjoyed a nice solo shopping trip to Pondy bazaar, walking from one end to another, with no kids in tow. It made me so happy that I could just take a look at the various road side shops with no time constraints.

 
At 4:38 AM, Blogger Sheela said...

Lavs, Thanks! I am not sure I would have ever imagined any of these simple activities could be so laid back and relaxing back in the days... just the nature of fast-paced life makes these little things seem so big to me :)

Reva, Thanks! I wish Ana will have fond memories of this visit as well.

the conflictedcook, Thanks! Decades ago, these same things were so commonplace that I didn't think twice about them... now it seems like these are the things that sort of replace yogabhyasam and meditation for me - for the brief stay here.

Your word of caution is duly noted - I am very wary of allowing Og to play with any toy off the street as he puts it in his mouth first thing!

seeseebeehomestead, we have to meet and share our trip experiences over a cup of elaichi chai after I get back!

ranjani.sathish, birds of feather!

I haven't been able to do the Pondy bazar trip yet - the unseasonal heat is killing; apparently this was the hottest July in 40 years! Between 9am and 5 pm I am not able to stir out without suffering the consequences - heat stroke, headache, nausea... thankfully, i leave the kids home most of the time, even if they get cabin fever and are bored, it is better than baking and stewing them in this heat...

 
At 8:51 AM, Blogger Subhashree said...

Lovely post.. loved the craft pics.

 

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