How I met my hair

I totally get it when your biggest concern while moving cities or countries is whether or not you will find a hairdresser that gets your hair. It’s a big deal, hair, especially if you have too much of it (like I do) or too little. The ones in between can safely cushion a botch up, but not the ones who need dilution or concentration.

It’s a bit like the dating game, the whole hairstylist thing. You go out with different people. Some you never want to meet again. Some you give a second chance to. Some you might move from coffee to lunch to dinner with. Some who will never cease to remind you how the others messed you up. Some who make you feel that they are the only ones you can trust. And some, you can perhaps live happily ever after with.

But then we all have had our share of hairum-scarrum stories, and people have trampled all over our hair insecurities, or people having us believe that we (rather our manes) are what they are not. Most times, we are lured into spending huge amounts of money on our hair only to end in total wreckage. Like Karishma Upadhyay whose hair was completely burnt because of bad bleaching. “I huffed and puffed but nothing happened. They tried to tell me stuff like my hair was too dry, ” she said, her lividness still intact. Or Kanika Bains who once got a “sexy, short, easy to maintain” crop. The only twist was she looked like a female Amitabh Bachchan, with sideburns et al for months.

But most of us are quite inarticulate about our hair potential or the lack of it. Parul Sharma, author and blogger, admits she is reasonably tongue-tied when it comes to discussing the cut with the stylist.

“Whatever you think will look good, ” is normally the extent of her contribution. “After that, it is the stylist’s funeral. Once, a stylist had decided that I needed a Victoria Beckham cut. Go right ahead, said I. So, the stylist got to work and 45 minutes later I had a haircut that looked nice, though evidently the Posh look had not really surfaced, ” she says. She tipped him generously and left a happy customer. The effect lasted for about two and a half days. “Soon after, the hair started assuming a life of its own and very soon there was less posh and more bush on my head, ” she laments.

For someone like Bhavani Arumbakkam, who, against her Tam Bram grain, always sported short hair, every haircut was a huge exercise – not at the parlour, but at home. Every ‘baafcut’ was met by a cold stare from her father and a nod of approval from her mother who was happy her daughter could do what she couldn’t. Post marriage, when the crop got a full go ahead from the husband and the in-laws, she dabbled with celebrity stylists, those with more attitude than real hair skills. Over the last few years, her hip hair-salon experiments have included straightening, boy cut, step cut, mushroom cut, at rates ranging from ranging from Rs 200 to Rs 4, 000. Today, she has come full circle with a no-frills hairdresser. “My hairdresser, Geetha, may not have given me a great hairstyle but the best part about her is: No tattoogiri, no pink and green hair, no asking, ‘Aren’t you doing something for your hair? It’s so. . . . . dry’ kinda nonsense. I walk in. She asks me ‘So which cut would you like?’ My usual response: ‘Please make it short. . . thank you’. Ten minutes and it’s over and out. ”

While on the subject, yours truly inherited unruly, dark, voluminous locks from my ancestors and although they were under arrest for the first 15 years of my life, the long tresses being forced into plaits after prolonged oiling and combing, the mother’s favourite recipe for all hair evils. Leaving it loose was considered an invitation to the demons, so even on the hair-wash days, it was tied just then semi-dry so it wouldn’t blow up into an unnecessary balloon, creating a hair-raising spectacle as it were. Every visit to a hair dresser was marked by an apology, “I am sorry, my hair is really thick and curly, but can you do something ?” And then they would say, “It’s so dry. You must use conditioner. ” Just when you had spent a fortune on a banana conditioner for dark, dry and curly hair from Body Shop that lasted precisely two weeks and your hair looked exactly the same. Still, it was early days. Product was not a cool word, straightening was not in, neither was curly hair or dusky complexion. So I had to wait. Till my mid-20s.

Divine intervention came in the form of Raul Miranda (then, more famously known as Mario Miranda’s son who cuts hair), a friend of a friend who had no salon, and only cut hair at 8 am in his bedroom. “Wow! That’s wild!” he said of my hair. But by then, I was so tired of taming my tresses that I said to him: “I want to go short. Really short. ”

He gave me what felt like a fido-dido cut. I felt liberated, alive. My curls sprang back as though released from years of bondage. It was truly an unbearable lightness of being. He also taught me that curly hair’s best friend is fingers. And worst enemy – the comb. He introduced me to product.

I had found a new ally. Every six weeks, I was back at his door. In the meantime, he had acquired an American wife and a brood of bulldogs. In a year he was off to the prosperous climes of New York and never came back. And I was left wild-haired and nowhere to go. The next few years were a series of unfortunate events packed with as many wrong guys as wrong hairdressers. My hair went through a long and arduous journey, trying to resist the lures of straightening, extensore, rebonding and what not. Luckily, I learnt from others’ mistakes.

If my personality is curly, there’s no way I’m camouflaging it, I thought. And one fine day, Amanda Carvalho walked into my life like a goddess. She never left. My hair, in her care has been through its longest (hip length) and its shortest (current avatar). It’s transitioned from singledom to coupledom to marriage to pregnancy to motherhood. And, as every year progresses, and my greys multiply, I fall more in love with my tresses.

The boy has inherited my hair, and his luscious curls always stand out in a monochrome of straight or blandly wavy-haired kids. But luckily, I am not my mother, so he will receive the gentle loving care of fingers and will be well protected from the evil effects of the comb and brushes and other objects that purport to tame, but end up with disastrous effects. I am thinking product, I am thinking bandanas, I am thinking braids, I am thinking long, I am thinking Son of Miranda. . .

(This post first appeared as my article in the Crest edition of the Times of India on 15th December, 2012)


6 thoughts on “How I met my hair

  1. Wow….. LOVE this one. Our parents…. What can I say?? It’s probably not their fault, that they didn’t know any better … Hahaha… Still laughing…. Your article has brought a smile to my face, on a day when there was no hope for any smiles. I have two daughters with slippery, poker, scanty hair like mine. My mother struggled with me n my sister’s hair and I’m struggling with my daughters’ hair. THIS will make me smile each time I’m trying to make it look a bit more presentable. πŸ™‚ thank you and a Happy New Year to you and your family.

  2. Hi!

    Found the link to your blog on the Sunday Eye. I love how you write! I have thick, unruly hair that has a life and will of its own too. I’ve taken to just letting it loose and enjoy the wind through it off late. And pretend i look very well turned out.

  3. Pingback: How I Met My Body | The Ladies Finger

  4. hi lalita… your blog and book…..just recently discovere both after being a mom……and could u please tell me where to find amanda carvalho….since i have had the same curly unruly hair and havent found my stylist goddess yet ! Help πŸ™‚

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