I was talking to this person in the corridor one afternoon when a Prof who walked by stopped and asked him “what happened?” The question took me by surprise. I had no clue what she was referring to. So, I turned and looked at him carefully to see what I had missed that she noticed happened. I could have missed a lot of details, because he is just an acquaintance. Friends are a totally different category.
A quick head to toe inspection yielded that he had a hair cut.. a clean shave this time, different from a lot of hair the previous day. That was the only difference, apart from the different set of clothes he wore.. he could be wearing a pair of news shoes or spotting a new backpack for all I you know! But I didn’t. But that no hair I gathered, a second or two later, was the reason behind the Prof’s concerned “what happened” inquiry.
In India especially, there are many reasons why people shave their heads. Men mostly, a few women too. This takes me back to a time when I was in college. A batchmate shaved off her long thick tresses that grew beyond her waist as part of a deal, a deal she made with God, she said. Her mother was diagnosed with cancer at that time and she said that by shaving off her hair, the hair she cared and loved, and carried around as her best asset, she was making a truce with God. She wanted her mother’s life back in exchange for walking around bald, with the stubble, the little hair as it grew back to its original length. It was a slow process, her hair growing back and her mother gaining her strength and tucking herself back into normal hospital-free life. And for her to walk around without hair, was a big deal!
To get back to the point of shaving, the babies have a ritualistic shaving as part of the Hindu ceremonies around the time they are one year old. I find that very disgraceful, even when the reason they say is, for the growth of good hair! The kids seem so disfigured and marred with their shaved heads. In that tune, my hair which was never shaved off ever until now, so by that logic, should it be bad eh? 😛 😛 I remain with the same hair I was born and I absolutely love my curls! A third, when there is a death in the family. A fourth, a non-religious reason, to resist the heat during summers. I can’t think of a fifth or sixth or seventh. An eighth, when you are growing bald especially men, that is the time when they act cool by sporting the no hair shaved look! (Na, I’m kidding, it is at the end of the day a matter of personal choice). You can add more.. There are so many rituals in the different pockets of this vast country, it is difficult to keep count. I wonder if anybody has gone around making an inventory of such ritualistic details.. A compilation would be a good idea as a part of knowledge sharing!
Getting back to the prof’s question, he replied to the query with a shrug of his shoulders “just like that, Mam”. There was a sigh of relief on her part and she walked on.
This post took shape in the space of that question and that answer.. the many ways in which a particular image of a shaved head can be interpreted, especially in India.