The Feminist in me was awakened! “Why, only men think they can muse over baldness? How about us? We are equally flustered and endangered by this phenomenon of baldness! In fact more so as bald women are an even greater source of ridicule than bald men!” And so I sit down to reminisce about the hair raising stories around my baldness!
|The original Cheeran!
I am born into a bald Family, the Cheeran clan, my paternal ancestry from Kerala! My father was bald. His father was bald. All his five brothers except the one immediately elder to him were bald. Now that was bad enough! To top it my mother was more or less bald, her father was bald and so was one of her two brothers! So now what hope did we have? My other first cousins were still hopeful, especially the boys! Their mothers were at least blessed with the coconut oiled long thick black tresses of women of Kerala! Now it was a question of the gene wars for them, which part of the family gene would win. For us there was no such suspense!
The Cheeran clan had a terrific sense of humour and enjoyed making a spectacle of their baldness. When the Cheeran clan stood up for the family photo, someone would rush to get an umbrella. Others would cover their heads. Still there would be bright flashes as the flash camera clicked. The ordeal was more so if the photo was taken in a studio with the powerful 1000 watt bulbs creating many flashes!!
One of my Uncle’s standard joke was “when I wash my face I draw a line on my forehead”. “Why?” I would ask as an incredulous little girl. “So that I can be sure that I am washing my face and not my head. It would take so long to dry my hair otherwise!” “Hee hee heeee” I would giggle!’
One of my dashing young debonair brother was a pilot. When he was training to be a pilot at Madras, where we lived, he would visit often. This was before the era of liberalisation and the private airlines! “With this sinking Indian Airlines where will you find a job”, my father would ask him in fun. “Oh! By the time I finish Tamil Nadu will be a separate country. Punjab will be a nation. There will be many new Airlines and surely lot of demand for pilots” Fortunately, we remain a united country in spite of a lot of turmoil, but his wish came true as he graduated and N number of private airlines were started. He first joined East West Airlines. That sank! Then once I met him many years later and asked which airline he worked for. “Oh, I am a coolie (porter) these days?” “What?” “Oh, I carry a lot of luggage around.” Another brother informed me that he worked for Bluedart, as one cannot elicit a sensible answer from him! Then he moved to Indian Airlines! That sank, or merged with Air India! Now he works with Indigo and we wait for the sinking of the budget airlines!
As a debonair handsome pilot with a terrific sense of humour he was a hot favourite among the air hostesses. Or so he made us believe! His troubles began when he noted the receding hairline. It was unfortunate, as he was the son of the only brother with a thick crowning glory and a mother with the long black tresses. He tried all possible remedies and finally opted for the wig. Now my brothers had the fun of their lives, warning him not to go anywhere near the giant propellers of the plane! “Don’t jump off a plane with a parachute, no matter what!” He continues flying as a dashing pilot!
Hair transplant is another new option to take care of the male or female ego! The only successful case of that I know of is Harsha Bhogle, the famous cricket commentator! None of my brothers have tried this, or have they??
My mother’s eternal complaint was that she did not realize my father was bald when he came to see her with the marriage proposal. She was too shy to lift her head and look. She did not see beyond his nose!!
Her complaints against the Cheeran clan notwithstanding, my mother started balding too. Fortunately, she had the classic curly hair of a Malayalee! This helped to hide some of the patches of baldness. As in the style of the fifties she always wore her hair in a bun at the back of her head! As there were not enough long black tresses to create a decent bun, she would add some false hair to her own, wind it and pin it up into a bun. We would travel every summer to Kerala to be with my grandparents and cousins. Once at a railway station we got off the train and as we fought our way through the crowd my mother cried out in pain! And we heard my father scream, “Oh, there it goes”. We looked where he pointed and saw my mother’s long black tresses on a long pole being carried by a coolie (porter)! We guffawed with laughter! For my father it became a hilarious tale to tell for decades after!
Once we visited the famous Temple of Tirupati Balaji. None of us were particularly religious, but a Professor once told us that it was a terrific hill station. So we spent a few days hanging around the hill and joined the queue when we thought it was short, mainly at the most inauspicious times! We stood at one such queue for half an hour and when we reached the end we figured that this was the one to get your head tonsured! We ran away in the opposite direction as quickly as we could to save our thick long black tresses!!
While most of the stories of baldness are hair raising, let me confess that there are many advantages of this state as well. Ajit and Anand with their male musings have highlighted a few. A woman’s major concern is hirsutism, excessive body hair on the upper lip, chin, chest and arms and legs. Most women spent many painful hours a week in the beauty parlour to get rid of this excess growth. With little hair on the head I am also blessed with hardly any hair on the upper lip, and none at all on my arms and legs. So no painful waxing or wasted hours in the beauty parlour!
Once after a family function in our ancestral home in Kerala, the family was discussing whether one our cousins was seen at the ceremony or not. Each had an anecdote to state of how he/she met some relative who had enquired; some thought they had seen her and so on. After listening to all, my brother quipped, “I saw one moustache come in through the door and I knew Chechi (elder sister) had arrived”. After a stunned silence everyone burst out laughing! How mean could he be? He was referring to the cousin’s problem with hirsute!
As I reached the mature age of 22 a young boy in college started to show interest and finally proposed. The major advantage of this proposal was that he was blessed with abundant black curly locks of hair on his head, more on his arms, chest and legs!! “Hmmm! Not bad, perhaps children born out of this wedlock will not be cursed with baldness!” And soon we were married. As we grew older the curly locks began to shed and soon he adopted a hairstyle with very close cropped hair.
Once in our early fifties we met a friend who exclaimed, “Wow, Jeemol, you have not aged at all! But your partner looks a lot older than before!” I was shocked and looked more closely at my partner! What had changed? I figured it out finally! With little hair at 22, thirty years later at 52 also with little hair, and retaining a broad ear to ear grin, I did not look very different at first sight! But Curly Locks new Cropped Look made a great difference! So much for baldness! Thank you Cheerans and Pullikotils (my mom’s clan), for the blessing of Baldness!