Sunday, 12 January 2014

Aah! Those long, lovely tresses

1975 - IX std.

I looked into the mirror and what I saw there
Brought not a smile to my lips but a tear to my eyes
My hair black was limp and listless, drained of life
The ends malnourished were quickly dying.

1978- In college

I looked into the mirror and what I saw there
Brought a smile to my lips, a bounce to my steps
Hair thick and flowing, the connoisseur of all eyes
Ends curled up beautifully added to my beauty.

2002 – a career woman in her early 40s

I looked into the mirror and what I saw there
Brought not a smile to my lips but a crease to my forehead
Hair thick and flowing showed signs of deterioration
Ends cracking and breaking looked ugly, impaired.

2014- a woman in her early 50s

Today I looked into the mirror and what I saw there
Brought not a smile to my lips but tears to my eyes
Hair long yet thinning was dull and listless
Crying for mercy, begging for care.

Well in short this is the story of my hair. As a child I had long, jet black hair albeit thin yet curly and lovely. However by the time I reached the IX standard, I was diagnosed for a serious illness, an illness that drained my body of vital nutrients and also forced me to take strong drugs to keep my kidneys working. My hair took a beating. As days passed by the curls were gone, the tresses were malnourished and begged for food. But I was helpless. They protested, split and started falling off. The protest grew as the days went by till mother was forced to cut them short. That day I cried. I wondered what my friends at school would say. Would they who had always envied my long plaits, make fun of me or offer their sympathies? Either way it was more than I could bear. Luckily for me, no one made such a thing as even a fleeting comment.

Then in 1976 I joined college in Kerala. I was placed under the care of my grandmother (Dad’s mother). Roles reversed I started envying the long, luxurious tresses of my cousins, relatives and friends. I yearned for hair as beautiful and vibrant as theirs. Luckily for me my grandmother took my tresses in hand and decided to nourish them and make them strong, long and beautiful. Each day she would oil them before I took bath. The evenings would find her caressing my hair, removing all the knots patiently taking care not to damage them. The hair tied in a big knot on the top of the head would stay there the whole night only to be opened the next morning.

Sunday was set apart for some extra care. Each Saturday grandma made it a point to go to the fields, pick up some wild mussenda leaves and boil them. Sunday morning saw my head, my tresses dripping with oil for half an hour. Then the ritual of squeezing the juice from the leaves would start. Grandma insisted that the leaves be squeezed gently. No way to hurry the process. Her oft repeated quote was,”Vellila piriyanam engil oru archa pattini kidakennam” literally meaning to squeeze the juice from the mussenda leaves one must go without food for at least a week. In short, what she meant was that the leaves should be squeezed with really light fingers. The juice worked as a shampoo cum conditioner. At the same time it provided vital nutrients to the hair and scalp. My hair started growing long and thick. The tresses became healthy imparting a new look, new glow not only to my crown but to my face as well. Finally before the year was gone the thickness, length and quality of my tresses surpassed those of my cousins, relatives (except of course that of one of my aunts whose tresses flowed well below her knees) and friends. The envious became the envied. The tresses imparted an added confidence. I slowly came out of my shell. I often heard my classmates sing these lines of a song from the famous Malayalam film ‘Salini ente kootukari, ‘whenever I entered the class-

Nin thumbu kettiyitta churul mudiyil
Thulasi thalirila choodee
(Your curly hair with a knot tied at the end and tender basil leaves adorning them)

At first I was taken aback, wondering whether they were making fun of me but then realized it was pure admiration. The very knowledge was pleasing.

Even after passing out from college and starting a career I found many a head turn around admiring my tresses.  I remember my first day in my in- laws place. Ours was an arranged marriage and we met only once before marriage i.e. when he came to see me. An aunt of his told me that on his returning from meeting me the first time, everyone was eager to know how I looked. The only thing he remarked was, “She has really long and thick hair.” It seems he instantly fell for my tresses.

In the initial years of my career I took good care to maintain my hair. Yet as time passed by and I bore a child time seemed too short. Twenty four hours a day was insufficient for both office and home. The frequent shift of dwelling and consequent change of water from well to bore to tap and vice- versa on account of frequent transfers, took a toll on my hair. My hair started to fall as never before, ends split. They grew back fast but by the time I reached my mid- forties I realized that the growth rate was coming down. Even the frequent trimming could not arrest the split end phenomena.   I slowly started to realize that age was catching up on me and my pride possession, my tresses. Now that does have a sobering effect.

Today I am in my early fifties I still have long hair, longer than most of my cousins, relatives and friends in the same age group yet, I cannot help musing on the lost glory my long, luxurious, curly hair. I miss those envious looks, that added confidence those tresses imparted. Today even a short trip out in the sun, the wind has disastrous effects on my hair. They easily entangle and are difficult to dis-entangle meaning more loss of that one thing that is any woman dreams of – beautiful hair. Remember what Oliver Herford said, “A hair in the head is worth two in the brush.” I’d do anything to keep that one hair intact.

How I wish I could once again recharge my hair, impart to them that vibrant silky soft texture that had once been theirs. How I wish I could once again get back my crowning glory and with it my confidence, confidence that a lovely hair that stays as it is required to stay, imparts.  Aah! I long for those wonderful days when my hair would make heads turn.  That reminds me of an incident that took place when I was taking my daughter and little niece of four, shopping. It was in the early nineties.  Two little children sitting on the compound wall of a house happened to remark thus as we passed them, “Hai! Look what lovely hair.” I smiled but my niece did not like it. She felt they were looking with an evil eye at my tresses. She worried for the fate of my hair.

Martin Luther rightly said, “The hair is the richest ornament of women.” Compare a beautiful face with long tresses as the sole ornament and another with limp, thin, balding hair sporting diamonds and rubies. Who wins? The first I am sure. I'd like to once again be that first one.


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