Reaching a good half hour before my class started one week this month, I decided to actually open and read the chapter to be discussed that day. It dealt with marketing strategies for international locations and why some work and some do not. I was engrossed in the lesson when I spied an example that talked about how sachets are so popular in India while it never took off in other places. I think the author lost me at that point as my mind was miles away reliving the innocent days of being a tween and aspiring for a sachet of black Sunsilk.
Growing up for the longest time my mom only trusted sesame oil and shikakai powder for shiny black tresses. Shampoos were looked upon with disdain as a crutch for people who did not either have time or did not care enough. Whole bottles of shampoo were unheard of. Sunday mornings would start with coffee, pazhaedhu (leftover rice soaked in water) and a leisurely ritual of Amma applying either warm or cold oil and rubbing it fast enough causing friction that would make my scalp absorb the golden gooey goodness. Combing out the tangles, she would make a tight knot till I was ready to shower. An hour or more later, an iron bucket with warm water and a mug would greet me as well as a plastic bowl with light brown aromatic shikakai, home dried and ground at the local mill with no adulteration permitted.
Terrified at the thought of shikakai falling into my eyes, I would squeeze it tight shut and feel water flow over me and amma’s firm hands massaging my scalp ensuring no oil was left. The rest of the day would be spent with hair in a pai pinnal and watery red eyes.
With the arrival of our first TV (a Dynora) and the eventual slew of ads, Sunsilk was the first brand I aspired for. I would lovingly look at the sachets at our local annachi kadai never really thinking I could use it. Then came Sunsilk Black and I knew I had to have it. I begged and cajoled and pleaded till I got one precious sachet. I remember trying to use half and folding it carefully to retain the second half for another use. I remember swinging my tresses like the girls in the ads trying to get a whiff of its chemical scent.
Years rolled by and I went on to experiment with paccha podi (unique to Kovai perhaps made from a moisture rich kind of spinach?) and later Biotique products from the nearby Nilgiris store. The first time I bought a bottle of shampoo when I moved away from home was a cheap thrill. Looking back, simple pleasures came from the everyday things. A lot of it was just in my head. I wonder now if I could go back to the oil and shikakai days just to experience that heady smell and have the hair dried using sambrani.
No wonder nostalgia is always tinged with happiness. We forget the red itchy eyes and the super dry hair.