‘This day is yours,’ mum whispers.

I do this often, at the start of a stressful, busy day — I close my eyes for a few seconds or sometimes for a minute. I don’t meditate, instead, I practice an exercise what I call — I play scenes in my head. I let my mind run frantically towards everything — work deadlines, groceries lists, social engagements, unanswered emails, birthdays missed, et al. I wait for it (mind) to get exhausted, and it does, soon enough. That’s when I begin to play the scenes. For reasons unbeknown to me, the reel always begins with me finding myself sitting on the floor in my room. The mosaic tiles are cold and I like it. Next to me, lies a tiny bowl, half-filled with oil. It’s blue in colour with broad stripes in white. Mum’s sitting on the bed, behind me. Using her fingers, she untangles my strands and I squeal, sigh, and smile. She tells me how eating greens is good for long hair — I nod, ‘But, not okra,’ I bargain and we settle for spinach. Next, we talk of Rapunzel; she’s my favourite.


The magic of mum’s fingers is all I need, I knew even back then, as I know now. Today, its almond oil, last Sunday it was amla (gooseberry): I like the aroma of both. It’s required of me to hold the bowl. As she massages the hair, we talk of lunch boxes, vacations to granny’s home, and play dates with the new neighbour. I tell her, what I want to be when I grow up (a criminal lawyer) and mum tells me, ‘You can (do) be whoever (whatever) you wish to be.’ I believed her then, as I do now. As she ties the hair in a piggy tail, I request her to make a plait, instead. ‘French Plait, please.’ She agrees. When she reaches for the hair tie, my mind begins to run frantically towards everything — a friendship band I need to complete for my best friend, the room that I am supposed to clean, the chocolate I have to hide from my elder sister, et al. I close my eyes and I don’t know when, but I fall asleep. I am six.”


When I open my eyes, there’s a smile on my face. I am de-stressed.


My hair is not oily, though. But, it does feel like I indulged in an oil massage, at home. I often wonder why is this memory dearest to me. Perhaps because it was our Sunday ritual, an uninterrupted time that I shared with mum. Sometimes though, dad would take her place and lovingly oil my hair! He is yet to learn how to tie them into a plait, though I am convinced my niece will teach him this summer break. Dad would also take me for a haircut and calm me down as I was made to sit on the rather tall salon chair, with my legs dangling in the air. ‘Dad, tell him to only trim; not cut.’


Decades have passed, but I haven’t forgotten that I can do whatever I wish to and be who I dream to be. ‘This day is yours,’ mum whispers. I guess memories formed over oiling, plaiting, and haircuts work as my ‘Carpe diem’ until date.


This piece was first published in Khaleej Times.


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© 2018 by PURVA GROVER