Tuesday 4 August 2009

Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow

My mother at 15, myself at 15, Bombay
For some weeks now I have been losing my hair. Vanity, I bid thee farewell.
I do not know if this is the disease or the treatment. Perhaps Monoclonal Antibody Therapy is similar to ChemoTherapy after all? Gently brutal.
I had my first real haircut after I came to England. Until then it had never really occurred to me that my hair was long and 'needed a cut'. It was a part of me that was growing in time with the rest of me. At school I wore it in plaits, as my mother had done, and my grandmother; I even remember my great grandmother's silver plait, fragile, carefully tended.
So why, within a week of starting school in England, did I have my hair cut?
It was too Indian. I could not escape its Indian-ness; a cloud of memories I had to abandon for the sake of a new life, new friends. The strange thing is my mother had her hair cut before her very first trip to England too.
In the East they say a woman's hair is her beauty, her individual enigma. In the West they say, "Trim your hair every six weeks, by a total stranger who may or may not use a razor to make his point."
I have had 15 years of haircuts in the West and have hated every one. My voice sinks lower as the scissor descends and my black roots, hacked, are swept away before they fall.
Am I writing about freedom or burdens? I cannot say. All I know is that I cannot return to the days of heavy weighted sweet smelling curls, brushed languorously by my mother's hands. Only two photographs remain to prove that once upon a time when we were beautiful it was possible to be free and rooted at the same time.
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