My face in the mirror was a flashback to a more shudder-inducing time – a time of padded shoulders and acid-washed, pegged jeans. My eyes ought to have been decorated with glittery, bright eye-shadow, because god knows, everything else about my face screamed ‘Eighties!’
And I was even grateful. I had thought that nothing would induce me to revisit the eighties with the gusto that everyone around me these days has the bad taste to display, but I was wrong. It was either this look or a buzz-cut.
Blame it on my cellphone. I was brushing my hair with a curling brush when my phone rang. At first I continued to brush my hair and talk. Then I tucked the phone under my chin and got on with the other stuff. This is when disaster struck: the phone slipped from under my chin, and to save it, I let go the brush, which also slipped, tangled in my hair and stuck faster than fevicol ka jod.
I don’t really know why people say it’s the happy times that whizz by before you know they happened. It must be disasters they were thinking of because all this happened before I could get a blink in. For the next half an hour, I did what I’m told some hairdressers do with hair (I with less success than they) – I teased, cajoled and finally issued threats. I tried water (bad idea) and conditioner (even worse). I asked my mother for help, shed a few futile tears and then called my local beauty parlour.
They were champions. They asked me to come immediately, and promised to sort it out.
Picture me driving through the streets of Hyderabad with a brush dangling from my hair. If people laughed, though, I didn’t notice. It’s more likely that they were stunned, as if they’d been gifted a lifetime supply of happiness and didn’t know what to do with it.
At any rate, the people in the parlour were very polite. They greeted me with their usual delight and ushered me upstairs, where a very calm young man waited to deliver me from the clutches of my brush. It took an hour and a half, two strong people, a lot of commiseration, gratuitous advice for the future and many, many questions. And I went through it with no anaesthesia. I assure you, not even childbirth was so traumatic.
At the end of that time, I was like putty in the hands of my saviours. The young man suggested an oil massage to soothe my scalp and I agreed. He said he’d give me a haircut that would mask the sad depletion of hair at the top and I was speechless with gratitude.
“Luckily, you have naturally wavy hair. I’ll just give you a cut that’ll add volume,” he said. I felt flattered, as if my wavy hair was the result of natural talent and hard work.
The massage helped. It lulled me, if you really want to know. By the end of the shampoo and conditioning I was in a state of bliss that made nonsense of my recently concluded ordeal. When I was sat down in the chair, I didn’t so much as look at my face in the mirror. In fact, I forgot to notice anything until it was much too late. A few minutes later, I had bangs.
Bangs. You know? Like those women in Dallas or Dynasty. Or those photos from back in school, the ones you prefer to hide away so your children can never see them and thus have nothing to hold over you when the time comes to bargain with them.
At the time, it didn’t look bad. Not as bad, at least, as my shorn, battered and discarded hairbrush. I took a deep breath, thanked my hairdresser effusively and left. It wasn’t until after the first wash when I witnessed each particular hair stand on end like that fretful porcupine in Hamlet that I felt I should just pack my mirror away, put ‘Karma Chameleon’ on loop and wallow in my misery properly. If I can blink and miss this, I’ll know everything they say about happiness is true.
An edited version of this appeared in today's The New Indian Express.