GRAND MOTHER’S REMEDIES
My grandmother was a stickler for following certain practices to maintain good health and well being. One of these was what was commonly known as the Castor Oil Service, akin to the 3 MONTHS / 5000KM SERVICE we get done for our cars.
We kids (my sisters and I; my brother escaped by not being born then) would be woken up early in the morning on a Sunday chosen by our grandmother, based on auspicious signs from the almanac. Instead of coffee with milk and sugar, we would be given small tumblers of coffee decoction mixed with sugar and a spoon of Castor Oil cunningly added. The coffee and sugar were meant to mask the smell and taste of the good old oil but failed miserably. The instructions : clasp fingers of left hand tightly over nose, pick up tumbler with right hand, gulp down contents. Glug glug glug. No gagging ... Go and sit in a corner and await your turn. No breakfast, no nothing. Straight lunch, to be served after the system was serviced.
Several turns later, we would be totally exhausted in every sense of the word and our systems would be declared clean as a whistle, and we would be packed off one by one for a quick bath. This would be followed by a frugal lunch, consisting of overcooked rice with a thin watery pepper rasam without any chillies or dal in it. Known as “milagu rasam” in Tamil, a much milder form of this captured the imagination of the British and they took to it with gusto, and after minor alterations to suit their bland tongues, rechristened it “mulligatawny”, the name derived from “milagu thanni” or “pepper water”, which it is, literally.
Tired after the morning’s exertions, we would forsake going out to play but rest awhile.
The evening would be spent in prayer. Bhajans would be sung, led by grandma. She had a bhajan book from which she would choose the bhajans for the day. Thanksgiving done, we would busy ourselves with our homework, while she would rustle up a quick dal rasam and occasionally a simple vegetable as a side. Rasam rice followed by curd rice. Dinner done.
Next oil change and service after three months or 5000 km, whichever comes first.
- © Shiva Kumar
24 Feb 2018