Sunday was the day we got to wash our hair. It was a production for the girls of our extended family - about 5 in all - cousins, siblings all living together in an old adobe house in Ahmednagar, India. To wash our long black hair (not one of us had short hair) - we got 2 buckets of water instead of one. We took turns because there was only one bathroom. We took turns because it took a while for the water to get heated up in the big pot in the yard. Each one of us then sat in the yard air-drying our hair and finishing up homework.
Sunday evening was the time to oil up while watching the weekly family movie on TV. Moms sat on the floor or the couch with coconut hair oil in a blue bottle. Parachute Hair Oil! In the winter this was warmed up on the stove just a bit. The girls then got a hair oil massage – the hair parted in several places and a sliver of coconut oil placed in the parting and your mum's fingers doing the quick back and forth, up and down. It was a leisurely exercise away from the bustle of the kitchen. Unoiled hair was not allowed in school – girls needed to braid their hair and wear either black or red ribbons at the end of the braid.
Everything smelled of coconut oil Sunday evening. Your mum's hands, your hair, your sister's hair, your pillow, the living room and the couch. The intimacy of these evenings stays with me as the smell fades only to come back overwhelmingly when 35 years later my mum asks me over skype if I've oiled my hair lately – I can smell the coconut oil and I tell her about how coconut oil has become the new good fat! Why I just smeared it on my toast this morning with a sprinkle of salt and black pepper!
- Bhavna Mehta