ART & POETRY : The orange chair

It was our job

To carry it to the verandah

On Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays-

the other days she would wet her hair

sprinkling few drops on her head so she could pray

Our first lesson that rules could be modified, if not broken

Those three days were different-

The hair wash, was an elaborate ritual

Beginning with the coconut oil bubbling over a fire in a brass pot,

Mixed with fenugreek seeds for thickness,

henna leaves for smoothness

and curry leaves for color

Then came the application; a ceremonial procedure in itself-

The hair parted into lanes and turns,

the warm elixir poured

and the pressure points pressed

‘So the parts inside remain cool like a well-oiled machine,’ she’d say

And we’d watch and learn.

An hour later came the shower –

a mix of amla*, bringhraj**, shikakai*** and liquorice

applied, instead of soap

Take care of it and you’ll never have to complain,’ she’d say

when we wondered why hers was black

and mom’s needed coloring

The orange chair

On which Ammuma* sat to dry her hair-

We inched it to the right and then to the left

Half in the sun and half in the shade

Until we heard her say, ‘It’s fine. Stop!’

From where she stood on the black marble porch

in a starched cotton drape

and a muslin towel tied at her nape

‘The perfect spot’ we called it

As we waited for her to descend

A concoction of fragrances-

henna, shikakhai, lifebuoy and ponds dream-flower*

There she’d sit in the dappled sunlight

Bathed in the rays overlooking the gates

and untie the muslin knot

Down they would tumble

her tresses, over the orange webbing

and the white metal arms, drops sparkling like diamonds on the chair

And from her perch, she’d warmly smile

at friends and visitors who crossed the gates

And acknowledge

the residents of the house as they left for the day

That included us when we went to school

A quarter jingling in our pockets for the good job done-

‘Our secret,’ she called it with a wink

On Saturdays, we got our turn

‘Our special treat,’ we called it-

to sit on the chair,

overlooking the gates

after Ammuma was done

The orange chair on which Ammuma sat

to dry her hair

now sits on the black marble ties looking forlorn

Part in the shade and part in the sun

A piece of our childhood, Ammuma

and the days of yore before we grew up.

I painted the below watercolor sometime ago and when one of my friends saw the painting she said it reminded her of her grandma. It was this statement that led me to writing this poem.

Vineetha Brijesh this poem is for you and for my girls who I know will be able to relate to it. Let me know if this poem brings back some childhood memory for you too.

*Ammuma- grandma

amla*, bringhraj**, shikakai*** and liquorice – herbal products for the hair

Copyright@smithavishwanathsblog.com. All Rights Reserved.

17 comments

  1. That painting is beautiful! The poem truly takes me back in time as if you are painting the scene in words – it is sad that this kind of self care is an absolute luxury in today’s world. I can almost smell the shikakai that my mom used to boil 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your very beautiful comment. Its so wonderful that the poem helped bring back memories with your mom. Reading your comment was satisfying.
      Oh…these days it takes me about 5 minutes to take a shower😀.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. When I saw the painting I thought of Van Gogh’s paintings of his room and chair – this painting is in similar colours and in it, the chair has the same sort of presence. I love the way you’ve captured the light across it too. The poem gives it added meaning – you’ve made a powerful story out of a memory.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wow! Thats huge Andrea. I actually did it based on a painting by James Gurney. But after you said Van Gogh, I checked and noticed the similarity. Thank you Andrea for the appreciation of the painting and the poem. It made my day.

      Liked by 1 person

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