There goes a saying in Hindi, "Bhookhe bhajan na hoye gopala" , which means that when you are hungry you can hardly sing prayers. Likewise, on a bad hair day, I can hardly be philosophical. So this one is going to be about beauty, hair and all things frivolous. All things that matter.
I was always warned by my mother to not get haircuts on Saturdays. Apparently Shani dev does not take too kindly to it. And why would he? It is the one day beauty salons are so busy, that chances are that your hair will not be done justice too. If you ask me, Shani Dev is probably the most pragmatic guys we have up there, unlike the whimsical image they paint of him.
But the incorrigible rebel in me just had to get a haircut on a Saturday, precisely because they asked me not to. The modern rationalist in me reasoned, "I am going to the best hair salon in town. Three out of five women with gorgeous hair cuts recommended them. They are expensive, which is an obvious affirmation of their being the best. There is nothing about the day that stands between my hair and their scissors."
So spring in my feet and wind in my hair, I waltzed away to the salon with my housemate and friend. Believe you me, the excitement in anticipation of the dream-haircut is more palpable than the excitement of meeting a potential dream-date. There was just one problem. Those who know me will second its gravity. My hair, well, are not exactly very docile. They defy gravity and spread out in all directions, they love playing tug of war with the comb, and make a mockery of hair serums by having a mind of their own. Indeed, some have likened me to the mythical Medusa. My heart goes out to the poor woman. But, allow me to digress, I have a theory for this.
Recently, in one of my infrequent 'knowledge-enhancement' phases, I happened to watch a TED Talk about 'fractals'. My little understanding of it is that the parts are a miniature copy of the whole - a concept called self-similarity. Extending that logic to my hair, if my hair are indeed copies of my self, then it is only too obvious for them to be so delinquent.
Coming back to the original story, as I waited for my turn in the salon, I watched women with poker straight hair enter and women with hair with a straight line equation so perfect that I suspected they were computer generated, leave. This was not a good sign. Going by my previous experience, it meant in all probability that the beauty parlour had a standard, stereotypical, media generated notion of 'good hair' = 'straight hair' and 'beauty' = 'orderliness'.
There are some other tell-tale signs that spell doom. The most common one is when the moment the hair dresser touches your hair, she grimaces, as if it was a wild boar that she touched, and says something like, "what shampoo do you use?". If you aren't using the shampoo that they sell, till the moment you pay up at the counter you shall have heard a thousand horror stories of how your next ten generations are going to be born bald. Then there is the standard, "your hair is not washed properly". My advice to you. Straight hair or funny hair, when you hear that run for your life because you have entered a money making machine which only wants to charge you an extra 200 bucks for hair-wash! Proof? My poor housemate fell for this trap and got her hair washed by Person A. In the flurry of Saturday rush, Person A forgets that she herself had given her a wash. When Miss A comes for her blow-drying she tells her again, "your hair is not washed properly", much to the puzzlement of my friend. They say, never tell a lie for it is easily forgotten.
Despite the universe trying to paint signs for me in red, bold and font size 100, I overlooked them. My implicit faith in the goodness of womankind and their empathetic understanding of hair-matters got the better of me. I had scarcely placed my optimistic rear on the hot-seat, when my hair dresser asks me, "what shampoo do you use?". Warning bells are ringing! I battle them and say, "Head and Shoulders". That name always gets you a disapproving look, the same kind of look working mothers get when they tell their non-working friends how they leave their babies with nannies. Yes, Head and Shoulders is downmarket. But it works for my urchin, vagrant hair much better than Lo-ho-re-hal.
I then say, in defense of H&S, "It's not the shampoo. I was born with those hair." She says with the air of the patronizing psychiatrist who knows when her patient is bluffing, "You should try our Hair Mask Therapy. It makes the hair smoother. At this rate your hair will become so brittle...", she left the rest to imagination. She then asked, "How do you want me to cut your hair?" I told her exactly what a brilliant hairdresser had done to my hair the only one time I got the perfect hair cut. (Unfortunately I lost her number. Very important moral: When you meet your dream hair dresser, you might want to take her entire family's number. Just to be sure.) She shook her head in disagreement and said, "That is going to make your hair look messy. Already they are so...er... curly." If I had any sense in me I should have darted out of that place. How many times have I heard incompetent hair-dressers blame the hair and not their scissors for their lack of both skills and imagination to turn what they have into something that is 'in character'? I mean, if someone has wild hair, it does not take a DNA scientist to ask them to get their hair straightened. But it does take some creativity to leverage their 'true nature' and turn them into something beautiful, instead of altering their biology. If you cannot, what am I paying exorbitant prices for?
I took a deep breath and repeated exactly what my ex-brilliant-hair-dresser had told me when I fell in love with her, "There is nothing like good or bad hair type. Each person is different and so is their hair. We can bring out the best in the hair by letting them retain their character." All that was missing from my motivational speech which sounded more like a pitch for an NGO was, 'together we can!'. I think the gyan hit her skull and bounced back to hit mine, because then she said, "Er.. that's right. But what you are saying is not in fashion. These days what is in fashion is to..." I had stopped listening. My fight or flight systems were seriously competing now. Fight won. In retrospect, that is usually a bad thing. In my final attempt to educate her, I emphatically said, "It is not about fashion! My hair is different! A standard formula of what is in vogue and what is not is not going to work!" I think she saw in the redness of my face the loss of one customer, so she quickly added, "Alright! Just let me try what I understand from your description, ok?" And then came one of those moments in your life when you have no idea why you said, "Yes".
She cut my hair like she were cutting grass. No pins. No attention either. I nearly choked when I saw her casually cropping my hair off while she incessantly conversed with her assistant, managing the Saturday Rush. Multitasking is the greatest myth computers have propagated. If only our minds worked like that. They don't. It's a simple lesson: You cannot cut hair looking away. It is not like driving cars that you do it automatically after experience. Specially when you have a challenging countryside track like my hair.
What happened then? My friend will probably pin her hair till they grow long enough for another cut. I will leave them open as bad publicity against the salon. In the dry state of Gujarat, the only thing she and I could drown our sorrow in was a good old cup of coffee at Shambhu's.