When we were little, Sundays were no fun, at least not the first half of the day. Electricity woes* meant getting up early like any other week day and finishing the most important Sunday task – the oil bath!
Every Sunday mum would bring out the little steel oil holder, strip us down to our underwear and apply coconut oil** – head to toe. She would then give a head massage, knead what little flesh were our hands and legs and let us sit around for a bit for the ‘oil to be absorbed by the skin’. This would be followed by a hot bath that would make us really sleepy. So a long siesta would follow lunch. Before falling asleep mum would read to us from the Sunday kids section of the local newspaper.
Evenings were reserved for a drive to the beach. While the oil bath was typical Sunday routine in our house, the Sunday beach outing was a town-thing, everyone went to the beach! So we would meet the same set of families that we were friends with, went to school with, attended Rotary Club meetings with, met at weddings and other social events! It was fun, we would try to spot familiar faces, sometimes there would be many and sometimes none.
What we did at the beach also was a ritual of sorts. No one swam in the sea – the sea could be rough, wearing a swimsuit would have been too scandalous for my conservative small town and there were no changing facilities. At most people would dip their feet in the water and the more adventurous ones would allow the waves to drench them completely! Most others sat on the sand and watched the sun set slowly, some others walked along the beach. While at it, people ate churmuri*** and Shetty Ice Cream****.
When the beach got popular and crowded (tourist buses started to visit!) Mangaloreans found another small niche for themselves and congregated there every Sunday. The road less trodden remained that way for a while before it was paved, much to the delight of young men on motorbikes. One enterprising churmuri seller set up a mobile shop unlike the Shetty Ice Cream van and other churmuri sellers who decided to stay on and cater to the busloads in our original beach hangout.
It was Sunday business as usual for many years to come!
I was in Mangalore last month and discovered that the road to our original haunt exists but does not stand out like it used to. The second beach exists but there is no access to the exact same spot that we called home for those 2 hours every Sunday evening. On the contrary a new area has been developed with fixed shops, a play area, paid parking lot, changing rooms and life guard posts. The area is populated with houses and schools. I felt a tad bit nostalgic and upset. Somewhere deep inside I hoped and wanted this beach to be rustic like it used to be, somewhere deep inside I wanted something to remain the same and not change like every one and every thing around me and me too! To use a cliche’, ‘change is the only constant’, therefore I move on holding on to the memories on the sands of time.
*We experienced several unpredictable power outages during the 80’s. Bath water heating was achieved via water heater geysers.
**For Mangaloreans, coconut oil is as important as it is to our fellow citizens in the adjoining state of Kerala. Coconut oil was our cooking oil, deep fry oil, anti-rust treatment, an ointment for small bruises, massage oil, hair oil and body oil and much more. Research has had a love-hate relationship with coconut oil and its health benefits. Manna from heaven and or the killer evil, Mangaloreans could not care less. The love for coconut oil prevails through thick and thin!
***Churmuri is puffed rice. It is garnished with grated carrots, finely chopped onions, tomato, raw mango (while in season), green chilli, chilli powder, coconut oil, salt to taste and turns into a wonderful snack. The garnish varies in different parts of India.
****Shetty Ice Cream was the grand daddy of all ice cream factories in Mangalore. They retailed ice cream long before the newer ones were born and gained popularity in Mangalore.