Let’s face it: I’m fat, fifty and ninety percent white. And I’m sick and tired of having to colour my hair every week. It’s like this. I had a brain aneurysm this July, and was laid up in the hospital bed for ten days (getting operated upon and fussed over), which threw my hair-colour-schedule off balance. Strapped down in the ICU with tubes all over me, touching up my roots became a tad difficult. A month went by. I used to glance at the mirror – “ugh” – glance away, and groan “God, I’ve got to colour my hair eventually”. The interval became longer and longer, until I spontaneously decided that enough was enough. I’d been dyeing my hair for the last twenty three years, and I wanted to stop. Here was the perfect opportunity.
This was a simple decision for me to make, but I had no clue as to how I looked in the eyes of others. Post-operation, lots of folks dropped in to see me. And to them I posed the question “What do you think? I want to stop colouring my hair”. I was hoping they’d say encouragingly “Oh, wonderful! You look much better already, dye is harmful for your hair, etc etc” so I would feel vindicated in my decision.
But instead, most people looked a little askance, and the immediate reaction would be “Oh, you colour?” (in spite of my visible roots, like it had just been revealed to them that cars didn’t run on their own). My response would come back pat “Yep. I started going white from my mid-twenties, just like my daughter.” They’d say “Oh really? Well, it’s not looking bad, but I think you should carry on colouring”. How disappointing.
On the phone with my mom, I hopefully repeated the exercise. I sounded out my plan only to be met with “Tor dike aami takate parbo na! Aami benche thakte-thakte tui shada maatha korish na” (I won’t be able to look at you! Don’t you go white while I am still alive!) Her reaction just strengthened my resolve, most of which I ascribe to my innate rebelliousness – whatever my mother says, I must do the exact opposite, whether I’m fifteen or fifty.
I was going to stop colouring, period. It’s given me nothing but pain. Not to mention my infuriating husband, blessed with genes that have kept his hair and figure youthful despite being a nearly decade older. And when I think of the approaching Delhi winters, when the mere thought of taking a bath is abhorrent and I resort to once-a-week showers, the idea of battling for an hour in the bathroom with hair dye seems like avoidable agony.
For all my contemporary peers who dye that are reading this – you know what I’m talking about. You prepare the colour, apply it while contorting your whole body so that maybe this time you could see the back of your head (and ultimately entrusting it to God), wait around with a head full of chemicals desultorily watching TV, then you rinse, shampoo, and condition. The whole process is a tedious ordeal. Sonam Kapoor is lying when she chirps ‘Hair colour is fun!’. DO NOT believe her.
But the process of letting yourself go grey means measuring every day how much percentage of each strand is black or white. In frustration, I asked my hairstylist to just bleach it all. He recoiled “No, no. It’ll make your hair very rough, just let it grow out”. Haircut it was, then. My plan was to chop it so short that only the white roots remained, dreaming of pulling a Nafisa Ali, who shaved off her hair in Tirupati and said goodbye to hair colour. My daughter wailed “Ma, you’ll have to get a buzz cut. You’ll look like a baby bird or worse, Salman Khan!”
I relented, but sneakily looked out for a chance to rebel. During an unplanned visit to a mall, I came across a glass booth advertising ‘Express Haircuts for Rs 99!‘ All the hairstylists inside looked suspiciously inexperienced, but what did I have to lose? In I went, dragging my daughter behind. I got the most horrendous haircut ever, luckily stopped from getting a buzz cut by my prudent daughter. Now, as the haircut has grown and settled, I am left with a proper penguin mop, fifty-fifty black and white just like a chessboard. I am reminded of a poem I read in a British children’s magazine when I was eight and I had never heard of hair dye.
I am a little penguin
short and fat.
White is on my front part,
and black is on my back.
With my life experience now, I’d like to make some amendments.
I am a little penguin,
white and black
I have stopped colouring
and I’m never going back.