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Hair today, gone tomorrow

It was a typical day in the studio… all fifteen of us (in the beginning, everyone attends all the classes) were trying to get the hang of a new assignment we were asked to finish by the next day. It was a lovely evening. Most of the big studios in NID, including the graphic design, face the beautiful front lawns. With my limited knowledge of both colleges and peacocks, I would like to believe that no institute in the world can boast of these birds roaming freely in their premises. In NID, they are all over the place.. studios, lawns, rooftops, ledges… I once found a peahen in the washroom.

Some of us got watching a handsome peacock with its tail fanned out, trying to impress a passing peahen. Soon nearly everyone was fooling around, and the assignment got pushed to a particular compartment of the brain that functions only after a plate of Maggi, 4-5 cups of tragic night mess chai, random visits to people’s rooms, and a tiny panic attack, all after two a.m.

It was an ill-timed comment made by a friend in the midst of our frolicking about my ‘grown all over the place-need a haircut asap’ hair that started it all. The remark had something to do with the structure a peacock has on its head. I say ill-timed because it was six pm and also the beginning of July, which means that Ahmedabad was getting its first monsoon rains accompanied by a weather that makes rain-crazy people like me go mad with happiness. This weather brings on a mood that makes the victim look at the fellow inhabitants with greatly magnified affection and trust. In that particular mood, I agreed stupidly to a seemingly kind offer by a friend, Devika. She wanted to give me a haircut, there and then (not to mention that it would be free of cost, though that was not what made me go ahead with the offer, I like to blame it on the monsoon). I could have said, ‘No, thank you very much but I’ll get it done this weekend at the place I regularly go to..’ but no, I said instead, ‘Hey! that would be cool!’ and even fetched a pair of scissors from my locker.

I do not wish to recount the hour-long haircut session that followed. The only thing I remember is realizing with every snip, the absence of a mirror in the graphic design studio. Remember the fable of the two cats fighting over a cake they find and a supposedly well-wishing, helpful monkey? In the tale, the monkey divides the cake into two parts for the cats. On finding one piece bigger than the other, he eats a chunk out of the bigger piece to make them equal. Due to a supposed error in judgement, he accidentally makes the erstwhile bigger piece smaller. Repeating the process, he ends up eating the entire cake while the cats get nothing. Well let’s just say that my hair was the cake and Devika the monkey (ah! here’s my little revenge..). What I mean to convey through this bad analogy is that she kept on snipping off a tress here and a lock there to make them of the same length meanwhile reducing the overall length to dangerous limits. If a good friend hadn’t given that look of horror I remember so well to this day, I would not have had much hair left at the end of the exercise! I immediately made Devi stop so that I could make a quick visit to the washroom mirror and review the damage.

Being an optimist, I tried telling myself things like ‘hair grows, it will be long in no time!’ , ‘it doesn’t look so bad after all…’ , ‘people around me will get used to this in a few days’ and most importantly, ‘I will get used to it in a few days.’ I felt slightly better and re-emerged out of the washroom, feeling a trifle bit more confident about the weird hairdo that I now showcased. A few friends I met on my way to the hostel politely chose not to give my hair too much attention. All seemed well till I passed the basketball court, where a senior we often interacted with, commented with concern but without delicacy. I think he did mention a scarecrow somewhere. Now optimism has its limits if you are a girl and have to survive a bad haircut! I rushed to my room and remained there for a long time.

I tend to think of worst case scenarios when I find myself in hopeless situations and pave a way out of them. It’s an algorithm I’ve realized has always worked: knowing what is the worst result of the hopeless situation I am in, knowing if I can deal with it and finally, dealing with it. More often than not, things are not as bad as they seem, it’s only a scarecrow comment that makes it all seem worse. After an hour of thought in the solitude of my room I realized it could have been worse… it’s only hair! It grows! I realized it was more a case of ‘I will look stupid in front of everyone with this hair.’ I was thinking more of what people around me would think. I was attaching too much importance to how I appeared in front of the surrounding public. So there! The mood immediately improved. The heavy rain that had started to fall outside added to the overall uplifting feeling. My newfound hate for Devika changed instantly into the affection I’d felt for her as a friend before this whole thing happened. I am now sure that her next victim would be more fortunate as she must have learned a thing or two as well.  Recently, another friend did something new to my hair which was a good job done but I didn’t quite agree with it immediately and I had a tough time before I reminded myself that it could have been worse! Bad hair days and haircuts don’t bother me anymore.  Nor does a pimple,  or some irregularly chewed fingernails, or a dress that does not ‘go with’ my shoes, socks, eye colour or sun sign.

It’s a wonderful free feeling, to be able to ride my bike once in a while without a helmet just to feel the wind run through my hair; to not bind myself in layers of scarves and coats and gloves all the time and resemble a female extremist, scared of getting darker in the sun; and to not let trivial things like a bad hair day affect my happiness.

Originally appeared in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Indian College Students, (2010)