Coconut oil

Hair care at home
was incomplete without coconut oil.
It keeps your hair black, she’d say.
So black that my shiny head
would glisten like the sea
under the scorching Madras sun.

The weekly head massage was to die for.
The aroma of mildly warmed coconut oil
wafting out of a greasy steel vessel;
Her soft sari caressing my cheek
as I lay on her lap.
Her old fingers suddenly springing to life
with renewed vigour-
If the oil isn’t rubbed in well,
how can it nourish the roots?

There was no end to extolling the virtues
of that smug blue Parachute bottle-
Her prized possession.

Oh, it also came mixed with dollops of magic.
How else could three-quarters-of-a-palm-full a day
cure dandruff,
remove lice,
increase length,
improve texture
and make me speedily marriageable?

Things are different now.
My hair is no longer lubricated,
symmetrically parted
and tied into two tight, tapering braids.
I don’t live at home anymore.
She doesn’t, either.

She had always prayed for my success.
And here I am, running ahead
so fast that my parents
can recite my monotonous voicemail word for word.
But sometimes,
like when I trim my androgynous cut,
streaked and dry,
I choke up a little.
Am I running away?

Appeared in Cake Magazine