Enna Thechu Kuli! A Panacea for all illness!
Every time I take a day off, my mom panics “ayyo, why? “as if I were a school girl missing an exam. A stickler for rules, amma takes dereliction of duty very seriously. If I call her up hoping to be pampered and praised, for being the super woman, that I think I am, I am certainly barking up the wrong tree. Her advice would be “Go take a hot bath. Apply that “pinda thailam” before you take your bath. You will feel fresh and then you can get back to work. Why take leave?”
In fact, the hot water bath after applying warm “pinda thailam” or “murivenna” is the panacea for all illness according to her and I would not blame her.
She grew up, as one of the 11 children to an ayurvedic physician, in a household where ‘enna thechu kuli’, or taking bath after applying oil is nothing short of a ritual, a supplication and a custom!
The earliest memories I have of my grandmother is watching her in awe as she carefully, and most leisurely, applied that warm”neelibringadi oil ” (which it was said was specially prepared by my grandfather) to her locks which reached way below her waist coiling into a thickness of silvery gracefulness.
Well! there I would stand admiring Raghu mama, one of my 7 uncles, who was easily the tallest and the most hand some of all, combing his thick black heavily oiled hair, splashing oily wetness on to the walls marking them for years to come.
Or there was my grandfather whose evening bath was a daily event. Preparations for which were closely monitored by my grandmother. A tub full of hot water with neem leaves swimming in it. Fresh water drawn from the well to fill another tub. The mysore sandal soap which only grandfather used. (The commoners in the house used Life Buoy, the red bland variety!)
As my heavily oiled grandfather would pace up and down the verandah, chanting some mantras, preparations for his “japam” would begin. A mat would be spread in the “nadupura” or the central hall and a small wooden container of “bhasmam or vibhuthi” ,that was home made, would be placed next to the mat.Post” japam” and after anointing himself with “vibhuthi” grandfather would open his eyes, and the ladies of the house would move quietly to the kitchen to serve dinner.
Dinner was always simple, “kanji” or rice porridge with lentils and a dish of the seasonal vegetables. Drawing in food perched on our separate raised wooden seats or “palakas” we would slurp and gulp kanji in almost a synchronized manner. The leaf spoons made of the ripe jack fruit leaves or ‘pazhutha plavila’ pinched together with a piece of “eerkila” or tendril of the coconut leaf called for special handling skills. Often gentlemen and ladies visiting us from farther places had to be taught this delicate art of using the “plavila”
One of the jokes that run in the family, is of Baby mama complaining that his wife, Jaya chechi, never gave him enough oil read ‘pinda thailam’ to apply on his body, as any ways it was to be washed off!
New born kids were always allowed to lie on the mattress or “pulpaya” after they are given a good massage using warm oil. If the rays of the morning sun fall on the kid so much the better. The oil used for applying on the body was usually plain coconut oil or the “kachiya enna” , the seasoned one my mom used to prepare, spluttering a few grains of rice, a few curry leaves and tulsi sprigs in coconut oil, would be ready to use when the aroma spreads in the room.When there was enough time and coconut at hand, coconut milk would be extracted and this would be applied on the body. This, however, was a rarity.
In his book called “Ayurveda Dinacharya” or the “The Ayurvedic Lifestyle”, Ashtavaidyan, Brahmashri. Vaidyamadam Cheriya Narayan Namboothiri, emphasizes that “abhangya snanam ”or “bath after applying oil” strengthens all body parts. He adds that oil should be applied on the scalp, in the ears and on the feet. Application of oil on the body has many benefits which include reducing fatigue, boosting immunity, ensuring good sleep and improving appearance.
In these days and times with shampoos have taken over the traditional “champi” and oil on hair is a big no, no, does anyone still think of a good “enna thechu kuli” as the elixir of life? I wonder!