Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Mirror Mirror on the Wall

I have faint memories of my father taking me to the salon. I used to hate the idea of sitting on the wooden plank the barber placed between the handles of the chair, so he could raise me higher to a comfortable height for him to cut. At four, I was barely 4 feet tall, and the hairstyle was normally dictated by my school rules. 

Short karna hain.

Which meant I would land up looking like a porcupine at the end of the procedure. In fact I do recall boys in school calling me names like Porcupine - I didn't even care.

This soon transitioned to something called Tapeli cut. Tapeli cut is what would happen if I took a round cooking vessel and put it on your head, and cut whatever was visible. Later this was popularly known as pineapple cut, or mushroom cut.

As the hairdresser cut my hair, I would look around at the frames, which were mostly the ancestors of the owner, the rhombus shaped comb, which is almost antique in today’s age, the left over hair dyes in the tea cups with broken handles, the slab of alum, and the rough tiles. What interested me most then was the Dukes lemonade bottle which had a shiny metal spray. I always wished owning one for some silly reason. 

My thoughts then were simple. 

I wouldn't bother at the outcome of the cut. I was more concerned about how many overs of the cricket match I had missed in the building compound, or how much more time I would have been left with to play a game of football.

Once done I would rush out without bothering to pay or tip, because Dad would handle all that after his cut, shave and head massage.

I soon outgrew the ancestral salon and heard of my school friends going to an upmarket salon down the road, called - Precious.

I asked my father if I could go for a haircut to Precious with a friend. I did sense his displeasure then, but while I thought it was because of the cost, it was actually because he lost out on time with me to do some guy bonding. 

But I had moved on, and he didn't want to clip my wings.

Precious was a clean, granite floored salon with lots of stylists.

Men were reading magazines, watching television, and talking in English to each other. I waited for my turn and soon was whisked away to a seat. I cringed on the thought of him asking me to sit on that plank. But he didn't.

He simply turned a ship like wheel behind the chair which automatically lifted me a few inches above and voila, I was a grown up!

I was sold! 

So often I visited this new find of mine, that I had a stylist who was assigned to me, and knew my hair better than me. 

I styled it in all sorts of ways, mushrooms, pineapple, cross side locks and many more. 

Until that one day when he asked me.

“Shave karogey?”

What did you say? Shave? And me?

I mean, I had tried using my Dad’s razor just to see what it feels like, hoping that one day I’ll have a beard and look all manly. But the fact that an outsider felt the need for me to 
shave was like a huge achievement for me. A milestone.

I shyly said “No” but inside I was beaming with delight!

I spent the rest of the evening and night observing my newly found facial hair. I was becoming a grown up. Which meant, I’ll go to college, drive a car, go to discs, allowed to see an adult movie in Regal or Eros theater, and not stopped while riding a bike!


My sister suggested that I grow my hair before I go to college. So I grew my hair in the vacation when school was done with.

It grew till my shoulder, really long.

One evening, when I was alone at home, I saw a tube and bottle of hair color, and Ammonia Hydro-chloride. Without a thought, I smeared the cream and liquid all over my hair and forgot about it. 

Until a friend asked me a few days later if I had colored my hair. I denied until I recalled what I had done a few days back.

You know what, my hair looked cool. 

Awesome- Golden Brown. Colored by 'Yours Truly'

I didn’t need a professional stylists to colour my hair, I did it myself, and most importantly I carried it well, and that’s what made all the difference.

For 2 years of college I was known by my hair colour and style. Quiet a stud I felt I was. 

Until one day, when a guy came up and told me, “Without your hair you are nothing!”. 

I took that to heart and decided to shave my head off and prove a point.

The barber asked me thrice.

Pakka na? Pakka na? Pakka na?

And with each time I said Yes, my voice grew weaker. But it was too late.
I was Bald.

Bald to that level that I couldn’t recognize myself anymore. 

I felt People ignored me at college, (but actually they didnt recognize me). I lost my confidence. I lost friends. Not because of my hair, but because I was ashamed of myself. 

Was that guy right? Was I nothing because of my hair? Will I land up being a no one?  I had people calling me Takloo and making fun of me. 

It was weird and horrible.

Probably the darkest phase of my life.

Soon my hair grew back, and I grew it as long as it could be tolerated in office.

Bored of the routine and standard cut, a friend suggested me to visit Juice (now known as b:blunt). The same place which was known for cutting the revolutionary hair styles for Dil Chahta Hain – The cult movie.

I booked an appointment through the phone speaking in my thickest accent, because the voice on the other side was equally thick. 

You know how it is when a Gora speaks to you, and you respond back with the same.

We happened to be in Bangkok for a week and almost spoke Thai accented English.


Same thing happened when I was in Dubai.


So, I landed up in front of this chic looking stylist feeling the texture of my hair. She cut my hair really well. She gave me spikes. That turned into my identity for many many years.

I visited various good salons after that. Once even Adhuna Akhtar herself styled my hair! 

The same Adhuna who actually had cut Aamir Khans hair in that cult movie. That’s different that she cut it at a event called Hairathon, where India’s best hair stylist were cutting hair for just Five hundred rupees for some charity cause.


Years later, trips to the barber were a shave, and a haircut.

And then it happened.

Sir, Aapke baal jhad rahein hain. Aap yeh tel lagao.

(Sir apply this oil, you hair is thinning and falling)


I was balding!!!!!! Nooooooo!

I disregarded his opinion and solution, and chose to live in the bliss of ignorance.

But the man had ruined my life in a moment.

Now every time they showed me the mirror after a cut, I would take a sneak peek at the slowly forming bald patch instead.

Soon the requests turned to “Sir, dye karogey?”

I feared going bald with the remainders being grey.

Why was going bald so difficult for me? And then it struck me. 

Was it that guy who told me, that without my hair I’m nothing? Would I lose friends again? Would I lose confidence? Is this going to be a déjà vu of those dark times? Would people call me takloo again?

In this darkness, I saw a rising shiny sun. 

No not a shiny bald oily patch. 

I meant a actual ray of hope.

I saw the Indian cricket captain- MS Dhoni, shaving his head off after the victory of the world cup in 2011. I saw Shahid Kapoor shave his head for Haider. Bruce Willis and my favorite Vin Diesel were bald. I could look like a movie star. 

All I had to do was muscle up now, right? 

Another problem area!

Then I thought - What the heck! Life may have taken a bit of my hair today, but not my confidence.

The again, my hair may have got thinner but definitely not my waist size.

Aargh! Can I stop being so critical about myself. 

And I ask you - Can you stop being critical about yourself? 

Looks are determined by your confidence to carry yourself. 

We all are normally very critical of ourselves in front of the mirror, especially when it is the mirror of a salon. Suddenly, those 30 odd minutes spent in front of the salon mirror, make you conscious of you double chin, wrinkles, dark circles, pimples, etc etc etc etc. Thats all you seem to notice doing nothing. 

As for me, I’m still facing the mirror and wondering if I should consider hair transplant, or maybe that hair growing oil or the gym and that protein supplement or that dietician, that exercise routine... endless.


Over half of people globally agree that when it comes to how they look, they are their own worst beauty critic. 

Documented in an award winning film, Real Beauty Sketches, Dove explores how women view their own beauty in contrast to what others see.
The results show clearly that when it comes to the way we look, the biggest beauty pressure is the pressure we put on ourselves.

On a final note. 

Spend sometime in front of your friendly room mirror (You know which one I am talking about, don't you).

The same one where guys take off their shirts and check their non-existing yet blossoming muscles. And girls wear their old clothes which barely fit now and tell themselves that are still thin.
Ask that mirror and you will know that you are awesome! 

Because You are...


See the Dove commercial here- Highly recommended

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