An Indian Mothers Home Made Remedies
The pungent whiff of garlic oil from a child’s infected and aching ear, the soothing and lightly sexy scent of sandalwood balm…the sight of turmeric stained acne-skin…these are the sensations of the cures for many ailments that Indian mothers and Grandmothers have passed down for generations.
When I was but a teen, I was pretty sceptical of these remedies. I mean, how are basic cabbage leaves meant to cure a headache? Surely the only use for orange peel is to muster up that insect-attracting, vomitty, summer-bin smell?
How I loathed those ear aches and even more so being scolded, albeit with intermittent bursts of love, to lay my head in my mothers lap for her to trickle this stinky warm oil down my ears and seal them with cotton wool. I wondered if the sensations would be any different in the screaming heat that my mother grew up in. I would look out of the window at the skies, as moody and whimpering as I was, waiting to be uplifted by one of my favourite dinners…stuffed okra, simmered in tomatoes and of course, garlic.
It wasn’t through revenge, but through genuine and almost holy intent that I smothered gram flour, yogurt and water paste over my sometimes lack-lustre skin in the bathroom. As I said to mum, it was inevitable that there would be droplets of the paste that escaped onto the floors, sides of the bath, sink….
More fondly however, I remember the warm and nurturing bedtime chats with my mother, seamed together by enchanting whispers in the ear. She would regale me with stories from her own childhood in Uganda, of crickets, sugar cane and skies that were orange, like the froth on my turmeric and ginger and infused milk. It was the potion for sore throats, apparently. I didn’t like warm milk. Not the smell or the taste, but how my mother cajoled me into drinking it whilst we bonded, smiling cuddling and I was lulled to sleep.
Treating Troublesome skin
Not many people can profess that their teenage brothers smelt floral or fruity, but I can. I blame my father for the sweet orange and rose scent that my brother carried, as he introduced the rose water to sooth my brothers acne cracked skin, and ground orange peel for remedying the acne. Personally, I could eat the stuff, especially in sweet dishes, like shrikhand (hung curd infused with rose water, cardamom, sugar, pomegranate saffron and pistachios).
There are alternatives though, if you don’t want to smell edible and bloomy. Like liquefied cucumber (peeled). This remedy is said to refresh skin and prevent acne. Makes sense then, why it is found in so many facial washes and soaps.
I found both peculiar and amusing, yet admirable, the disciplined ritual of a girl with whom I shared my university halls with. Everyday, she piously applied grated potato to her face and in a Nefertiti-like position, she slept in it all night. The next morning, there would be only be a few strays on the white towel she had masked over her pillow, but we would tease her about the browned potato lumps slumped in the sink, like undercooked and discarded hash-browns. Sorry looking things. It seems that she was more learned that the rest of us, for grated potatoes on the skin is supposed to treat not only acne, but wrinkles and blackheads too.
If you don’t mind the risk of looking like a one of the Simpson’s (this wont really happen unless you leave it on too long), you could try mint juice and turmeric applied to the skin for 15-20 minutes. If using turmeric on your face makes you nervous, you could use a paste of fenugreek leaves applied to the skin for 15-20 minutes. I think fenugreek gives that ‘generic curry’ smell, so don’t be surprised people in your proximity assume that you have over-done it on curry!
There were a few girls in college that used toothpaste on their zits. I always imagined them being fizzled out, with all the stinging and shrinking. These girls would come into lessons with large sore and red blotches of dried-out-spot the next day, ready to proudly impart their wisdom, based on their conquest with the volcano that summoned space on their face.