Wednesday, 23 November 2011


After a gap of six months I was looking at our regular newspaper, The Hindu. Because I was rather busy I did not take time to pore over everything, but skimmed over the headlines and the Letters page for a couple of days. Prominent among the letters were references to Khushwant Singh praising The Hindu. I was pleased. Now here was a good writer appreciating quality media.

As I began settling down to my daily routine, including filter coffee and The Hindu in the mornings, I began to notice some aberrations. The headlines were, well, just not up to the mark, not impersonal enough to reflect the seriousness of the articles or the dignified nature of the paper.  I brushed the thought aside, thinking that I must be expecting too much, since I was not impressed either with the newspapers I had seen in Seattle or New York.

But some days later I saw headlines with puns in the paper, which would have seemed right on a tabloid,  trivialising serious news.

One was on  November 10, : Now, Moody's blues for Indian banks, when the financial/rating company had downgraded Indian banks.

The other came a few days later - Niira Radia says 'tata' to PR, when the infamous political lobbyist who had single handedly managed to bring down a whole lot of big names, and among whose clients was Tata, announced her decision to quit the PR business. This was a very tacky headline, I felt, and in bad taste.

Then last week when the government-run milk agency in Tamilnadu hiked its prices, and people were beginning to protest against this hike, the Hindu’s headline on November 20 ran
After price hike, Aavin card holders no longer hold the aces.

Another headline  today
Now, vegetable prices put consumers in soup

Maybe they sound clever to the editors and sub editors who wrote them, but I feel it brings down the standard of the newspaper.

The picture of singer Dhanush in the newspapaer.
Then to crown it all, the most trivial of entertainment news finds place on page 1 today. – the popularity of a song from a yet-to-be released film, and how it has gone viral, gaining instant popularity on the internet . Good news, of course. But page 1?

Don’t for a minute think I don’t like the song, I do - it is very catchy.  Listen to it here.


Friday, 4 November 2011


Tresses, curls, locks - all beautiful words for a beautiful part of ourselves – our crowning glory, hair.

Rapunzel (Courtesy Internet)
Hair plays an important part in the overall appearance of a person, and beautiful hair often indicates beautiful people. Literary physical descriptions of persons usually include hair – its colour, condition, length, texture. And some characters in legends and stories are remembered for their special hair. Like Rapunzel, who was locked up in a high tower without steps by a witch, and whose hair was the only way to reach the tower. The prince who loved her climbed up the length of her hair which she threw down from the window of the tower. Can you imagine the length and strength of that delightful mane?

Lady Godiva (Courtesy Internet)
Lady Godiva covered herself with her long tresses to ride through the town. Her husband the rich lord had said that if she rode naked through the town, he would reduce taxes for the commoners. Her hair served as a cloak, and not even the lone person who dared to peep out as she rode by (all the villagers had vowed to close their doors and windows and stay inside) could see anything but her hair. Now see how handy long hair is?

Samson and Delilah (Courtesy Internet)
Samson’s very strength was in his long hair, and when the bewitching Delilah, learnt his secret, she told his enemies where his strength lay. They cut his hair and the poor man was left a weak and broken man.

In art too our own Ravi Varma has painted goddesses and women with long flowing hair, just as his European counterparts like Botticelli (Birth of Venus) have.
Ravi Varma's Mohini (Courtesy Internet)

Botticelli's Birth of Venus (Courtesy Internet)
Till recently women wore their hair long, and considered it a thing of beauty, caring for it, and grooming it well. A hundred strokes with the brush before bed was an assured form of getting that shine. Brushing ensures that the hair is tangle free and massages the scalp as well. The other use the hairbrush was put to need not be mentioned here.

Persis (Courtesy Internet)
Long or short, women are fascinated with the styling and grooming of hair. If it is curly, we want it straight. If straight, we want it wavy.  And no, not everyone can look as charming as Persis Khambatta did, without hair. She shaved her head for a movie role and still looked great.

 I used to long for wavy hair, I remember, and hated it when the ends of my plaits stuck out like broomsticks. While as children we suffered the weekly oil massage and following wash, we now realise now that it helps bring a rush of blood  to the roots and stimulate them. During the days I was growing up, there was a biweekly ritual of massaging the head with coconut oil (which was heated with powdered peppercorns) and then washing it off with shikakai or the paste of Bengal gram powder. This kept the hair soft and silky. We also washed our hair daily with plain water. I still do it, though the biweekly massage seems to have become bi annual! Well almost.

Here is a real life Rapunzel, my friend from college days. Her hair was long, thick and she wore them in two plaits reaching right down to her thighs. She put sambrani in her hair after washing it, and it smelt so divine. In the picture you see only one of her plaits. The one alongside her is me, with my pigtail hanging behind modestly.

 Washing the oil off has become simpler with so many shampoos available. I remember when I went to Manchester in the early 70s I was amazed at the number of shampoos in the shops. And I indulged myself by trying out a different one each time. At home here, there was only Tata’s shampoo, which came in the same type of bottle as the Tata hair oil. Many a laughter riot took place when my grandfather mistook the shampoo for the oil, and ended up with a head full of bubbles.

In Kerala and Bengal, women are blessed with lustrous long hair. I have wondered if the fish eating habits in these regions have contributed to this.  Definitely, healthy eating habits contribute to healthy shining hair, if not to the texture or thickness. Lots of greens and protein are a sure way to bring that sheen to you hair.

Born in Kerala, I spent many years outside the state, till finally settling down in Chennai after marriage. I have not cut my hair but let it grow. Gray now, it falls down to my thighs, but sadly, lacks the thickness it used to have in my young days. I used to trim it to hip length regularly to keep the ends even. Now I require the extra length to hold it when I put up my hair, to make up for the lack of thickness. My seven year-old granddaughter is however impressed, and longs to grow her own. She has silky straight hair, but it is kept short for easy management.

I still love massaging, oiling my hair and shampooing it regularly. I am looking forward to using the products in this delightful hamper.