BAPU SATYANARAYANA writes: There are memories and there are sweet memories of a long age childhood. And then there is the memory of the weekly ritual also known as the yenne snana.
It wasn’t a bath in the sense it wasn’t what you did every day in the bachchalu mane before going to school or office. It wasn’t just about splashing a few mugs of water and rushing out.
The yenne snana was different; it was a process—long, leisurely and loving—that was long ago etched into the Sunday morning schedules of most Brahmin homes in Mysore and elsewhere.
For some it was pure pleasure; for many it was sheer torture.
Step number one was the heating of the gigantic hande. This was usually kickstarted by the servants and elders in the house long before sunrays kissed the bathroom. And this was done by using firewood, not electricity, and the idea was not to make the water warm like on weekdays but to bring it to boiling temperature.
Step number two was for young boys in the house to enter the bacchalu mane with minimalistic regality. With a langoti (loin cloth) firmly slung to the udidara (waist thread), we would smear our bodies with haral yenne (castor oil). Again, this was no perfunctory function. The idea was to massage it to enter into every pore of the skin.
The concurrent activity was to sit on our haunches to stoke the fire by blowing air into it so that the smoke did not billow and make our eyes water. This was done through an iron pipe, a small length of water pipe in reality, that was handed over to generations like a family heirloom.
This, the blowing of air, was fun but soon amma would holler “Aaytheno?” from some deep corner of the house. And then, without waiting even for our response, she would purposefully enter the bathroom and vigorously pat our heads with liberal amounts of oil on the head and on the back.
Step number three was the one we feared most. She would splash scalding hot water on us with tremendous force. The idea was noble, of course, to get the grease off our backs and bodies. But sometimes, heat would make the body red. Sometimes we would cry because it was so unbearable.
Step number four was the application of sheegekayi pudi (soapnut powder) mixed with chocchulu pudi. This would be vigorously rubbed it into the body to remove the oil. That done, there would be another close encounter with hot water. After this, we would thoroughly rub ourselves dry with a towel.
Step number five was to lie in the bed already made ready and pull the kambli covering ourselves fully from head to toe. Oh, boy! We would sweat profusely and the banian and the bed-sheet would get thoroughly wet.
When we got up from the momentary slumber, it would be time to wipe the body dry once again. I don’t know why but the body, as I remember, would feel unbelievable light after the yenne snana. And a waiting cup of fresh, hot filter coffee would be most welcome final touch.
If the weekly bath was enjoyable, its monthly cousin—the purgation—was an unmitigated tale of horror.
We had not heard of the tablets to get rid of the tape-worm. So a mandatory local brew consisting of a cupful of the same thick haral yenne made a little warm was concoted and used as purgative.
Some of us would drink it with a dash of coffee to make it palatable.
Usually we would drink it in one swift gulp with both nostrils firmly closed with thumb and four fingers of the left hand and the tumbler held in the right hand and head slightly tilted upwards.
With this hateful ritual completed, the long wait would begin. Again, the familiar cry from somewhere. “Aaaytheno? Yehstu saari?” It wasn’t enough in our parents’ eyes to have consumed the purgative; we needed to prove it worked.
So there would be umpteen visits to the toilet to cleanse and clear our bowels, till the stomach was as flat as flat could be. It all sounds surreal in retrospect but I believe the yenne snana and the haral yenne drink was very efficacious.
Any takers now in the era of shampoos, showers and laxatives?