The problem with haircuts is that it never turns out the way it is expected. You look at various weird hairdo’s on the Internet ( type haircuts for 40+ females on Google), choose a few, use your phone’s 8 mega pixel camera to click and then land at the salon. Then you tell the guy with the scissors, I want a change. He looks a little stumped. What kind of change? Cautious question. I want to look different. He looks perplexed. Probably wondering what has got into her and how to best appease her. My thin straggling shoulder length hair does not give him too many ideas or options.
I close my eyes and all my past hairdo’s flashed before me one by one. I always had thin hair, when I was small, they were oiled well with mustard oil or heated coconut oil, tightly combed and finally tied into two tight tails with black or red ribbons. My dad would take me to the same roadside barber who used to cut his hair. The wooden chair on the side of the road, and a small shaving mirror hanging from the tree in the front, he had to put a plank on top of the chair for me to reach the mirror. For many years, I only went to him but slowly as I grew older, I realized this was totally down-market and I started insisting to be taken to a proper hairdresser.
My hair grew in length with my age and the pigtail became thin braids. The ribbons remained in their place. My school uniform demanded red ribbons ( and red socks too). I never figured out how some girls always has great looking hair, polished, suited them, perfectly in place even in the windy city. And mine, even after the oiling and ribboning, a few strays would find their way out and I would end up looking as messy.. And when some girl would flick her hair so, ufff, why could I not have hair like that, how can Gods be so unkind to me. My dad discovered a hairdresser, a unisex salon for me on the station road. Considering my awesome knowledge about hair styles, I found him reasonably ok.
I loved Buns, loose buns ( Rekha kind) or top of the head kind but could never achieve similar results unlike some of my friends despite hours of efforts. My bun would look like a small black woolen ball tied with a rubber which would keep opening every few seconds and finally, getting tired of it, I would tie it so tightly, my head would start aching. In class XI, I suffered from typhoid. And my lovely hair started falling. A great excuse for cutting it really short. And I did. It actually looked good for a while, you know any Sheela, Rekha, Jaya or Sushma would look good at that age.
My illusion about the hairdresser was shattered in college, when a girl from Jaipur joined our college. Now, for the ugly ducklings in Jodhpur, Jaipur was where all style divas existed. She asked me for a place to cut her hair and I recommended my unisex fellow. Disaster struck. She came back and told me, you go to HIM for your HAIRCUT???. He doesn’t EVEN know how to HOLD hair. With all capitals emphasized! I was ready to sink into the ground as I stood looking guilty in front of the girl-who-came-from-Jaipur. Finally she discovered a better and costlier place for me. To be honest, there did exist some girls who would also fall into the category of my-hair-is-like-this-only with whom it was always easier to form a kinship.
When I came to Delhi, my eyes popped open at the beautiful hair of some of the hostel inmates. I learnt you could press your hair, curl your hair, perm it, and get gorgeous styles. I experimented. For some reason my hard perms looked good after 3 months only. The first time I permed my hair, my son ( must have been 2-3 years old) refused to recognize me and howled loudly when I tried to hold him. He stayed away from me for 2 full days and when he came hesitantly towards me, he sat in my lap and kept looking at my hair like an alien creature had taken hold of my head.
My husband always supported all my weirdos hairdo, every time I came home and look expectantly at him, he would look at me and say, looking good. What choice did he have anyway? A different response to a different style would have made any conversation with me impossible for a few days.
But then I opened my eyes and came back to the present. I showed the-guy-with-the-scissors the photos of what I wanted. He looked at the photo and looked at me. I won’t be exactly like this, he was still hesitating. No, I want this only, I was firm. Ok, I will try and then he started on the journey with his scissors. Twenty minutes later, he flicked the comb, stepped back and said, done. It looks ok, with confidence. I looked at the photo, and looked at me, it doesn’t look like this? I said hesitatingly. No it does, my confidence seem to have migrated to him. I looked at it for a while before finally realizing what was different, the face. The photo has a beautiful face and the mirror showed mine. Well, gotta deal with the same face for this life, might as well smile at it.