How many times has it happened that something that you encounter in present transports you to your past, making you nostalgic when you have least expected it?
Rarely, right? Today, that rarity happened with me. I came across an advertisement of the Dabur Lal Tail on the internet and immediately, one of my fondest childhood memories was triggered. Yes, I know, memories being intricately linked to a baby oil is kind of weird, but what should I say? It is about the baby oil, after all. It was the winter of 1998, 30th October to be precise, when my just born cousin Archit was brought home from the hospital, and my nani, maternal grandmother, grabbed him in her arms and before cuddling him or letting anyone fondle him, she declared, 'First he'll get the massage. Only then shall anyone touch him.'
I had never seen Nani being so commanding before and for a while, I remained quite scared and surreptitiously followed her from a distance. She went to the kitchen and came back with a steel bowl half-filled with yellow mustard oil, its sharp smell making me sneeze. I crawled away and sat far off near the window, to breathe the fresh air as I'd vicariously enjoy her delicate massage on Archit's chubby baby-legs which began as soon as she returned. Archit giggled when her hands moved over his tummy, and I urged her to do that once more. She instead chided me for instigating mischief upon the vulnerable Archit and said, 'Tease him when he is big enough to retaliate. Now come, it's your turn now.'
I was dumbstruck. I craved for one such massage; my football-tortured lanky thighs and legs would definitely not have minded some kneading, but the goddamn smell hindered the fulfillment of my desire. My nose hated the odour of mustard and would transform itself into a sneezing machine if I went near and sniffed it. Fearing an unfair comparison with my little brother, who was cool with mustard oil unlike me, I laughed at her suggestion, saying, 'Me? A ten year old "man" getting a massage from Nani? Ha! No! Only kids go for that.' It gave me a false but good opinion of myself. Every morning and evening that followed, I would greedily watch Archit relishing his massages twice a day, bursting into giggles at the end of it every single time, which started becoming a source of great envy.
Two weeks passed and my envy had already peaked. I no more hung around Archit and spent most of my time in front of the TV. It was during one of these evenings when for the first time, I encountered Dabur Lal Tail's advertisement on the television - a mother massaging the little baby with it. At first, it infuriated me. Now that I had stopped being around my little cousin, the wicked God planned to make me feel jealous through the television. The advertisement went on and no matter how much I wished to change the channel, I could not coerce myself to do that. So much for vicarious pleasure! However, when the advert got over, it said something that caught my fancy. It mentioned that it was fragrant, besides fostering height and weight - an absolute need for my lanky body eager to attain early manhood.
Over the next two days, I convinced my family-members why mustard oil was bad for the baby's health and why Dabur Lal Tail was of utmost importance - it was ayurvedic, made up of completely natural ingredients, didn't have synthetic products that could harm baby's skin, besides it ensured better sleep and natural growth. I intentionally gobbled up my prime concern - the fragrant part and desperately waited for the Nani to make a list for the next month's ration, which was done in a few days.
A week later, my legs were getting massaged with the Dabur Lal Tail, and this time my month-old brother Archit was gaping at me enviously, when Nani asked, 'What happened to your manhood?'
'Kuch pane ke liye kuch khona padta hai,' I replied like a man.