Kerala women are known for their long, lustrous black hair. Their secret? Traditional hair care methods.
I remember my childhood days in Matunga, when Tuesdays and Fridays were "oil bath" days. We children would gather in the bathroom, and take turns to sit on the large stone seat in the centre. My mother would massage til oil, heated with pepper and cumin, into our scalp. It was called neer-piditham - both cumin and pepper are belived to have heating properties, and were meant to keep us from catching cold. There was always a lot of rush-rush-rush on oil bath days because all of us had to get ready for school.
The oil was washed off with a home-made shampoo - we would pluck tali leaves and grind that with shikakai to wash off the oil. If the leaves were not available, then the kanji starch from the previous night's rice was used with shikakai.
As I grew up, I had neither the time nor the inclination to look after my hair. In fact, I've never shared the common belief that long thick hair is an important aspect of female beauty. Maybe it's because I've never had long thick hair! My usual retort is that you can either grow grey cells, or you can grow your hair! And I usually conveniently point at my youngest sister, who is the brainy one in the family, and has short hair.
But at the age of 70, I became a little worried as I experienced severe hair fall. It was then that I spotted, in a Tamil magazine, a recipe for a hair oil that guaranteed dark, long hair. I've adapted that recipe to my needs, and now my hair care routine includes this oil. I do feel that the hair loss has stopped.
Here is how my recipe works:
Let the oil cool, preferably overnight. Strain and store in a cool place. Apply on your scalp 30 minutes before a shower.
The original recipe I saw in the magazine also had henna leaves in it. But I don't want my hair to change colour, so I don't use henna. Also, henna has cooling properties, and it's easy to catch a cold when oil is infused with henna.
Another aspect is the pan itself. Traditionally, a heavy iron pan is used for heating hair oil. The oil is left in the pan to cool overnight, it is believed that the iron reacts with the oil, adding some of its properties to the oil.
So now you have it - my secret recipe for hair care! If you do try it, let me know the results!