– main baal baal bach gayee
Why would someone shave her head – her perfectly, okay imperfectly, hirsute head? Disease? Heroic treatment? Preparation for brain surgery? In return for a favour from God? Because a loved one died (although to my knowledge, it’s males who shave at this)? A protest against some atrocity?... These are the stimuli for voluntary baldness that spring to people’s minds, especially Indians’ minds. Glamour? Please! What’s glamorous about a shaven head followed by a stubble and a golliwogesque look for a while afterwards? It is extremely difficult to visualise a healthy bald woman not trying to make a statement.
I shaved my head simply to go through, and savour if possible, the experience in my adult life. And I’m doing just that.
Shaving my head has been a fairly eye-opening experience. The value of hair became sharply clear to me just seconds after the depilatory expedition concluded. My head felt so cold that I had to wrap it up in a knitted cap, even indoors. I am able to examine my scalp at a hitherto impossible level of detail now, and note, right away, that the shape of my head is very different from that of other frequently bald persons such as my brother.
Nobody has reacted neutrally to my shaven head yet. Once the initial hesitation, generated by the unpleasant conjectures ibid., passes – eliminated by assurances from me or someone else with the facts – people begin applauding me for the move. Some go so far as to compliment my appearance, and certainly my ‘guts’ or ‘daring’ to embark on such an undertaking. Many go on to eulogise my spouse for his broadmindedness, declaring that their own would’ve booted them out and only hair regrowth could’ve ensured reunion. And he, far from being a passive proponent, actively aided and abetted me - he was the one who executed the hair-trimming and not-so-close shave. I followed up with the close shave!
I don’t feel embarrassed. I don’t feel very different, except when I look in a mirror, of course. My weight hasn’t decreased. My head doesn’t feel lighter, and neither does my heart! Washing practices have changed – I’ve put away my shower-cap for the future. I have used separate towels for my hair and body for all my adult life; I’m down to one now. Hair accessories are hibernating.
I realise, with an inward chuckle, how used I am to my hair, when my hands involuntarily reach up to move my hair off my neck and onto my pillow, and when on rising, I find my fingers ascending to comb through it. The current softish stubble (like ‘firm velvet’) is not a bad substitute for the nondescript strands that it has replaced. I run my palms over it, like a gunda, now and then!