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How to make a Plait

"Ouch! It hurts Ma!"
I made a face as Ma tugged at my plait fixing the end with a rubber band.
"Ouch! It hurts Ma!" mimicked Golu as he ran pulling a few strands out of my ponytail.
Suppressing a giggle, Ma shooed Golu away and started to re-do my braid caressing where it had been pulled at.
Rubbing a little oil between her hands, she began massaging my head. From the forehead, all the way back to the nape of my neck, from the eastern ear to its western counterpart. From agitation to relaxation.
Aha!! Mothers know it all.
We sat on our porch stair facing the kitchen garden. Golu lurked at the boundary wall, for he was done playing his menace on me. Drawing my back closer to her, Ma combed my hair. Gathering strays with her soft yet firm fingers. Collecting the bunch at my neck, she neatly divided it into 3 sections. I could now imagine her brows coming together in concentration as if the balance of the universe pivoted on my head.I called these three, the Brahma, the Vishnu and the Mahesh in my head. The universe surely depended on them, if not my hair! I chuckled at this private joke.

"Don't move or you'll ruin it!" she shouted.
"Yes maa!" I affirmed.
A little lost, I sneaked my doll out and fiddled with her hair. Seeing this, Ma started to guide me through the process.
"Split the hair into three equal portions.
Smooth them out.
Hold the right section in your right hand and the left section in your left hand.
Keep the middle section in place with your thumbs.
Now start with one.
Which one do you want to start with Amba?" Asked Ma.
"Left one," I said.
"Okay, so cross the left part over the middle and bring the middle part towards the left from beneath.
Repeat this with the right part. 
Continue this alternating cris-crossing, while keeping the braid steady in place. Fixed in the centre or it will turn out to be twisted.
It's like playing a harp. The harper must know when to strum and when to let go. "
I portioned my doll's hair and followed as she directed.
It went quiet as we got busy weaving. Maa hummed a pahadi tune. The cool stairway filled with lullaby called for daylight dreams. The fresh afternoon breeze doubled its effect and I got drowsy.
"Amba!! Amba!"
Ma nudged with her elbow and I focused back.
 
She sang and spoke about the beat, left and right and then left again. Her song that played on my head, in rhythm and in flow. Fixing the end of my plait with a rubber band, she squealed "I am first".

"Can you put a flower in my Choti " I asked pointing to a Genda bush in the garden.

Sharing a simple recipe for your Sunday hair care. 
150 ml Coconut Oil
Fresh Neem leaves (10-12)
1 Lemon
A glass bottle (preferably 350 ml)



Add a few dry neem leaves to coconut oil and bring it to boil. Now add 2 spoons of lemon juice.
On cooling transfer the entire content including the leaves to the bottle.


Neem has a high level of anti-oxidants that promote hair growth. Coconut cools while lemon keeps it fresh. 

Illustration by Sharan Kranshi

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