I’ve never had great hair. Period. And it’s just recently that I’ve figured out that due to no fault of mine whatsoever, I was dealt with a bad bargain right from the time I was born. I mean, while the elder sister inherited our mother’s straight silky tresses and father’s lean frame down to the very jaw bone , I grew up to be neither here nor there. And so I ended up with wavy hair, not straight like Mom’s, nor curly like Dad’s, and a slightly portly frame, not totally plump like my Mom’s nor lean like Dad’s. My hair was always my bane….the one thing I’d hated about myself. Well, not maybe the one thing, but definitely on the top of the list of things I wish I could change about myself.
I never knew what to do with my hair. So much so that the concept of a “bad hair day” was foreign to me when I first heard about it (maybe it wouldn’t have been so, had I had good hair days!). And so, I did what seemed to be the best thing to do without me having to try too hard. I let my hair grow long, and grow it did…right till it reached my waist. Not without help, though. I cannot count the number of hours my Aita spent oiling my hair every Saturday, tugging and pulling and coaxing it to grow long. But then I got bored of having to maintain it, and one day when I went in for a trim I came back with my hair snipped off right till it was half the length it used to be. Aita must have been scandalized cause she gave up hope that very day….and so did I.
I mention this because at that time I seriously thought I would grow it again. Never could. Yet, I wanted to be as much of a woman as I could be, and that reflected on the way I walked and talked, sat and laughed….and very much on the way I dressed. I must have been a regular “behenji”, but I couldn’t care less. During that time with so much happening in my life, my hair was definitely on the bottom most of my concerns. I was above all that you see. The frenzied and fervent ritual of henna-applying every Sunday that was so popular among the girls of the hostel where I was staying in during my graduation was not for me. I was of the “it’s what inside and not what’s on the outside that matters” school.
And such was the scene and would have remained such had I not taken the decision to come back to Tezpur and join Tezpur University to complete my masters. Take a boring campus, add the blandest course, take away the last modicum of fun, turn a girl’s world slightly upside down, and then after a whole year of that, give the girl two whole months of a summer vacation, two weeks of which to be spent at the sister’s place in Kolkata. Well, what you get is a frustrated trip made to a fancy salon out there just for the heck of “something different and interesting”, and then hair chopped like that of a pixie. An unhappy pixie at that. I remember cringing each time I chanced to see myself in the mirror (and that was an accident I didn’t want….I avoided the mirror for three whole days). My sister kept reminding me to take care of my hair and to make sure the fringes I had on the forehead and bangs I had on the side were in shape while the only thing I could do was keep touching the nape of my neck which felt so….well…nude, without my hair covering it and wondering how it was funny my sister was asking me to take care of my hair, a concept that was new to me.
After the initial shock wore off I started spending an inordinate amount of time in front of the mirror though, and maybe slowly, I started relating to the person looking back at me from there. To give my ego a boost, my gem of a brother (who happens to be an amazing photographer) clicked a few snaps of mine that made me look absolutely happy-happy, and I uploaded them and the compliments started pouring in. I remember being called an Oriental beauty, a few commented that I looked like some Korean heroine, and even one who said I look like a cute little boy (the last one was not that ego-boosting I have admit). The apprehension gave way to supreme confidence, and slowly, it started showing on my very person. I went ahead and got piercings (four on each ear, by the way) and loved the look on people’s face when they saw me after my hair cut. I enjoyed the double-takes the best I must say. Right on cue, everything else in my life started falling in place. A classic case of “out with the old, in with the new”. Maybe what you see in the mirror everyday does affect how you look at things after all.
So lost was I in this newly found confidence, and so busy was I playing the part of this liberated and intimidating (yes!! People were actually scared to even come and talk to me) woman that I forgot to think about a major glitch. The one that came one month later in the form of a hair trim, and my utter confusion as to where in heaven’s name to get it done from. Granted, the bored girl was no longer the same, but everything else in this place was still the way it always has been…!
Tried to delay it as long as I could, but when one of my friends, incidentally a guy, commented “Finally your hair is as crazy as mine”, I decided it was high time I had to face the ordeal. Enter James, with his streaked hair (the first look at which made me hope he didn’t do his own hair) who somehow seemed to know his way with my hair, and although it was my first time with a guy hair stylist, I was okay with what I saw. Thanked my blessed stars I’d found a place to get a trim, but the moment I entered my hostel, I realized people around me were no fools…my room mate was the first among many to comment that my hair no longer looked “different”. Hell ya, I thought short hair was short hair no matter what. I mean, how different could it be? And yet, that was the time when I still looked like a girl with short hair and hell lot of an attitude. That was cool. What was totally uncool was when I went in for the second trim after another month and James was too busy discovering other stuff related to me (ugh! don’t make me think about what exactly) to concentrate on my hair. What was even more uncool was having my dude take one look at me and laugh out loud saying I look like a guy. From Oriental beauty to naughty guy. From “Wow your hair looks fab!” to “Don’t worry, its just hair…it’ll grow…tsk tsk tsk!”. Three months was all it took.
And yesterday, when I, along with four other gorgeous women I grew up with, had to doll up in traditional mekhela sadors for a photo shoot, it was just about the lowest I could feel. All I could do was look at their long beautiful hair and long for my own, and lament about how I was such a misfit. It took my mother, my sister and the same photographer brother to assure that I look different, and that was how I was special. I didn’t stop to think at that moment that different is just another word people use when they don’t know how to say that you look worse than before. Just for a little while, I told myself its okay.
Come to think about it, just a few days back when I was re-listening to the song “I am not my hair”, I kind of started thinking…heck, I am so my hair. I can really divide my life till now into before and after hair cut. And things have turned for the better, because just this once I’ve learnt to love things I feel I am fated to hate. Its not about my hair after all. Its about the way I look at it. In the end its about how you look at everything, ain’t it?