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The author having a particularly good hair day and wanting to capture that moment for all time!! ?

If there’s one thing Indian women have in common, it’s taking pride in the appearance of their hair. Growing up, the ladies in my life – mom and aunties – never wore a lot of makeup (mainly just kohl eyeliner) or used fancy bottles of perfume (fresh roses and jasmine in their hair was fragrance enough.) However, every woman had a bottle of hair oil on her dresser and used it religiously. Beautiful glass bottles of coconut oil or amla (Indian gooseberry). And after the oil was applied, the long locks were corralled into one or two thick braids, into which a flower was expertly,and elegantly, tucked.

I had to go through this ritual every morning as a child but as I got older, I traded the oil for manufactured confections of conditioner, and just preferred wearing my hair out and free (I still do!) but the main difference was that I stopped putting the same level of care and time into maintaining my tresses. And believe me, every time I saw my mom, she would dispense the same pieces of advice I’ve heard all my life. And my response each time : ‘ok, mom’ *eyeroll*

Then, I moved to a windy, dry, temperate country and got a lot of split ends, tangles (GIANT tangles, actually), and hair loss due to yanking  those tangles out!! So, although I will still continue to wear my hair out, it’s definitely time to admit that mom (Amma, in my language) was right all along!

Amma’s Hair Rules:
1. Hair oil: it’s important to hydrate your locks to keep them glossy, tangle-free, and healthy. How much hair oil you use is totally up to you and is influenced by how much oil your scalp normally produces and your environment (is it hot and humid or dry and arid?) I generally do a hot oil hair treatment once a week and rinse it out in the shower. Oil treatments are great because it provides a chance to give yourself a head message! This is not only relaxing, but also increases circulation and hence the delivery of nutrients to your scalp. Occasionally, I would run a light amount of oil on my ends only. I find that it doesn’t really matter what oil you use but I prefer to have natural elements in it. Often, I would use raw coconut oil, as that is traditionally used in the part of India I’m from. As a treat, and for nostalgia’s sake, I recently bought a bottle of Amla (Indian gooseberry) oil as that was found on the dressers and vanities of all my aunties back home. However, use what you like – olive oil, argan oil etc- they will all keep your hair shiny and split end-free.
2. Braid your hair: I never listened to my mom on this growing up. In fact, it was only recently, when I moved to colder country with drier hair, that I noticed how tangled my hair kept getting. I would have to struggle to take out the ensuing rats nests and, in the process, lose a LOT of hair! I still wear my hair out and flowing wherever I go, but these days I braid them at night (bonus: beautiful waves!) and when I walk around a lot outside (the wind does a lot more damage than your would imagine!)
3. Cut down on your use of hair styling tools and harsh products. I hardly ever blow dry my hair – I’ve always preferred the way my waves look when they air dry anyway.  However, I know that many people simply feel more confident styling their hair. So, if that’s the case for you, try to give your hair a few style-free days a week: no alcohol-based products, no heat tools, or tight hats, scarves, or headbands. Let your hair – and your scalp- breathe and be free!

Remember – nourish your hair from inside and out and every day will be a good hair day!

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As a South Indian, I grew up eating lots and lots of upma – a dry, often savory, porridge-like preparation made using rava (semolina.) It’s a common breakfast food – very versatile and filling! I guess you could call it South Indian comfort food!

I like eating it any time of the day, though. Today, I made it for dinner, with some salmon curry and dal. And of course, a meal like this deserves a sweet finish! So for dessert, fresh sweet mango with non-dairy coconut ice-cream!

BASIC UPMA RECIPE:
This is the basic recipe, to which you can add your choice of veggies, nuts, coconut, dried fruit etc. Anything goes! If you like it, add it!

INGREDIENTS:
1 cup rava (semolina)
2 cups water
1 onion
1 green chili
1 red chili
3 or 4 tsp ghee (or vegetable oil if vegan)
1 tsp mustard seeds
1/2 tsp urad dal
3 or 4 curry leaves

METHOD:
1. Dry roast the rava until it is hot and set aside
2. Heat the ghee and add the dal, chilis, and curry leaves. Sauté until the dal has turned golden brown.
3. Add the chopped onions and ginger and continue sautéing until the onions turn transparent.
4. Add the water and slowly add the rava, while stirring. Once all the water is absorbed, cover and cook on low for 7-8 minutes – stirring periodically.

And that’s it, guys! Simple and yummy!!

You can serve it on its own or with veggies, dal, or curry. You can also leave out the savory elements (chilis and onions etc) and make a sweeter dish. I’ve had it served to me for breakfast with sugar and a banana that you mash into the upma. Also very yummy!!