Stories from my home – 4: Bala’s oil pot


We don’t always have to travel to seek stories; they are right there in our homes. I never cease to be amazed by how much we take things around at home for granted and this series is an attempt to remedy that. In “Stories From My Home“, I re-look at many of the material objects surrounding me at home and attempt to document and share the precious memories associated with them.


This true story begins more than a 100 years ago.

Every morning at dawn, in a small village of Southern Tamil Nadu, little Bala would set off to bathe in the Thamirabharani river with other girls in the street she lived in. She would carry bath oil in a little bronze pot, some payatham maavu (or green gram powder), and a change of clothes. Bathing was a fun and elaborate ritual that also involved play with all the other girls who came to the river with her.

Years went by. Bala grew up and got married and newer responsibilities meant she no longer had the time for the elaborate bathing ritual that she once followed; there was only time for a quick scrub and dip in the river. The oil pot soon fell into disuse and eventually became a plaything for her daughters.
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Bala’s daughters too grew up, got married and left the village to live in far off cities. The oil pot remained behind, abandoned and forgotten. Years later, while on a visit to the village, Bala’s oldest granddaughter saw it and immediately took a fancy to this oil pot and with Bala’s permission took it back with her.

#StoriesFromMyHome #MaterialMemory
Bala’s Oil Pot

The granddaughter, who was a bit of hoarder, never really used it for anything. But her daughter — Bala’s great-granddaughter — had other ideas. She claimed it as her own, initially for play and later as a rather wobbly pencil holder. Somewhere along the years, the oil pot stopped being used and went into storage, coming out only during the cleaning bouts that Bala’s great-granddaughter was prone to.

But then one day, Bala’s great-granddaughter decided that it was too pretty to be kept in storage and brought it out to be kept with other curios at home. She still dusts it and each time she does it, she can’t help admiring just how beautiful it is and wonders how her great-grandmother would have been as a little girl. For you see, I only remember her as a very strict person who had a lot of dos and don’ts when it came to little children.

Yes, me, for you see, if you haven’t guessed it already, I am Bala’s great-granddaughter ! 😊


Stories From My Home: Meenakshi’s lamp | The box of coins | The photographs in the envelope | Bala’s oil pot |


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11 thoughts on “Stories from my home – 4: Bala’s oil pot

    1. Welcome here, Todd. Thank you so much for stopping by and commenting. y memories of my great grandmother are quite hazy but whenever I hold this pot in my hands, I feel a surge of energy or connection that seems to travel decades to connect 4 generations of women and their stories.

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  1. Nice.. here too gramma and Mom have quite a few such pathrams, that I unfortunately have no interest in..been telling em to use or give away while gramma is still around.. sigh..

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