My hair hovers in unruly waves a couple of inches above my shoulders. I have had it this way for the past 10 years, except maybe a couple of times, when I wore it even shorter, thanks to over-zealous salon women who were woefully out of work and went chop-chop!
Once upon a time, I had long hair… coconut-oil glistening tresses that cascaded down my shoulders and grew to a point where I could no longer reach them until I brought them over to the front to tie them. Much care was taken, shikakai, shampoo, herbs-infused oil and frequent threats from those who thought my ‘life was their business’ ensured that my hair remained where it was, at a length envied by all. I remember my neighbor Dakshaben who was doing a course at a beauty salon using my hair to hone her skills. No one was happier than paati who neatly braided it with fragrant malli poo and kanakabharam that on most festival days, my head resembled a mini-garden calling out to bees and other insects and assaulting the senses. And with every tiny trim, if those close to me could invoke Shakespeare, then certainly, it would be the ‘most unkindest cut of all’.
Muscat, desalinated water and pregnancy wreaked havoc with my hair. When I saw more hair on the floor than on my head, I decided to go to the Filipino lady at the salon downstairs who with her over-enthusiasm and a pair of scissors, changed my life.
I don’t let this hair business bother me much except when a few strands start falling over my eyes and clouding my vision and I realize it’s time for a cut and religiously hop over to Prema’s parlour for it’s she and only she who understands my unruly hair and the kind cut it deserves. And not to mention, my lack of time and interest. So once in 45 days, I do just that… and to appease Prema, I also agree to cry… that’s what eyebrow plucking does in the name of beauty. And thereafter, the daily routine just includes a quick hair wash, a brushing and maybe once in a year, when I decide that ‘dowdy’ is not so fashionable, I take my hair straightener out. Yes, I am like that only.
The only time my hair comes into focus is when I am in India. Like recently, I was in my old neighborhood, in and out of around 70 houses to invite people for a family function. The conversation at every home (give or take a few languages) went like this:
“Rekha… (replace with Reha, Rega, Reghaa or Raygaa as and when necessary)… eppo vanthai?” (Oh! It’s Rekha (or whatever), when did you come?
“Iruppiya…” (Will you stay? Or how long are you here?”
“Mudi ennachu?” (This is said with a touch of drama… rolling of eyes, look of disbelief and in extreme cases, followed by an aiyooo!)
Some maamis even went further with a spiteful ‘Enna… puthiya fashionaa’… (So you went abroad and decided to become fashionable!)
Thankfully, I was dutifully wearing my beautiful Mysore silk sari (peacock green if I may add) so it just stopped at that!
And at the function, I cheerfully waved to an old neighbour and there was no reaction. I had to go upto him and jog some memories out of his brains – especially those that involved ‘gorging on enormous amounts of kadhi and theplas at his home in my childhood’. Sadly, it was my hair that had let me down again making me unrecognisable.
But then, I take it all in my stride. Hair, less hair or graying hair is better than no hair. And I shudder when I think of a time, four years ago, when I had a shining bald patch on my head, as big as a one-rupee coin. A kind dermatologist helped me grow it all back.
They say one must be thankful for the little things in life. And good things in life come in small packages… I’d have my hair no other way!
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