Sachets of memories

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.

7 comments

  1. Laksh, ditto here at my home too. I used to dread shikakai. Yes indeed nostalgia is always a pleasure. Now missing all those here and 😦 hunting for no named organic/natural shampoo.

    -Uma (silent reader from Marvell semicondutctors 🙂 )

  2. Thanks for writing this post with such details..My memory is exactly the same until the pacha podi. I was in chennai and may be this was not available in chennai. I was doing this oil+shikakai routine until 2006!! I even continued this after coming to US but slowly and sadly I forgot the routine..I feel that my hair has also become weaker now..

  3. “Golden gooey goodness” – loved this phrase, wouldn’t have thought of sesame oil in such words but very very apt. I think this is one of your best posts, in my opinion.

    I do the oil routine even now (for the most part), just that some times, no, make it most of the times, these days shikakai is replaced with shampoo 😦 Btw, my first shampoo was Halo; we used to buy it by the bottle but it was meant for us kids and we had to jump through hoops to get to use it once – that was another Golden gooey goodness, I must say 🙂

  4. I have similar memories too. I thought Clinic Plus came before Sunsilk. I remember using the blue sachets and then switched to Meera shikkakai powder and then finally to the shampoos of the West. I only remember the sambrani part of it, that my grandmom would insist on, especially on school days when we had to have the customary bath on the 4th day of the monthly cycle. I still love sambrani and love Meera powder, and use it generously when I visit my parents.

  5. Not sure if I have fond memories of Shikakai and oil baths, but I do remember fondly the eager anticipation of getting to use a small satchet of Sunsilk and how much easier it was to wash your hair without the messiness and burning-eyes and remnants of an oily feeling on the body for the rest of the weekend. But totally in sync with this post, Sunsilk satchets were SOOOOO coveted, it was almost like finding black gold.

    Oh, and sambrani used to result in wheezing fits for me, so all in all I was only too glad to switch to modern day hair-washing techniques at the risk of inducing harsh chemicals onto my hair 😀

    Superb topic for nostalgic rides!

  6. Shikakai!! Even Amma used to make it and store it in Maggi Ketchup bottles. 🙂
    Nobody has the time now..but oiling is still an every Sunday ritual.

  7. Our family was loyal to Clinic Plus. I used to actually like this ritual as a child and even tried bringing the Meera shikakai packet here. But it’s too much work cleaning the tub, the mess on the shower curtain etc.

    Loved this post!

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