This morning I oiled my hair and washed it. My hair usually fell in beautiful dark brown ringlets all over my shoulder, on normal days, without me having to as much as even brush it. Expecting that result, as always, I tugged the thin thorthu (thorthu is a Malayalam word for towel. Thorthu is an emotion and needs a separate post) and gently pulled it out of my wet bun. I was greeted by a mat of hair – filled with knots, tangles and OH MY GOD, some split ends too.
I had truckloads of work to get done. I didn’t want to spend my time detangling it – not on a Thursday, and definitely not when the dishes were piling and the oven was beeping as if the fire alarm just went off. Well, it did because I burnt my lasagna. Yes, you guessed that right. Today was my turn for household chores. Surely I wasn’t prepared to handle my laptop as it lay there screaming like a hungry baby. My phone chimed and lit up with reminders for meeting notifications spewing out of its only orifice – the speaker holes. My hair was a ridiculous mop – think Professor Trelawney! Exactly her, but a vastly different, brown version sans the crystal ball. Anyway, I decided to turn my video off before my meeting.
I spent the lunch hour trying to brush my hair straight. That’s when it hit me.
I got a rolling montage of yesteryear actors, starting specifically with the image of Shalini letting her hair loose and lying on the body of a chopped tree in Pachai Nirame. Frizzy hair, cotton sarees, less makeup and natural expressions. Pure gold.
Everything about the 80s, 90s and early 2000s was golden in colour, sets were sets, dreams were filled with bling or white light, there were angels in white, and the hair was always jet black, pulled into a bun, falling in waves or flying precariously through the window of a car. Think Ilamai Idho Idho, Kamal Hassan riding a bike into a set filled with shiny bulbs overexposed in the camera and artificial smoke rising and falling like clouds, or Prabhudeva breaking into a dance in the middle of a conversation in Petta Rap, his crimped hair resembling steel wool – nobody gelled their hair or straightened it, except if you were Nayagan though. Or Kajol with her angelic beauty and unibrow, her unabashedly wavy black hair and brilliant dance moves from Poo Pookum Osai.
Other examples include Suhasini from Sindhu Bhairavi and Anu Hasan from Indra. This list is not for purists but for frizzy-headed queens like me who are scrubbing the floor, scouring the net and looking around for some inspiration before settling their eyes on the wet mop slantingly placed near the washing machine.
I looked at pictures of my mother holding me when I was hardly a year old, and my mother's friends too – everyone from the late 80s and 90s. I looked at pictures of my mother and her friends in college – yep, they all have had the goddamned frizz. I’m sure they all had the split ends, tangles, knots, white hair and an occasional bout of dandruff too, while tending to household chores and other wailing nightmares that crawled or strutted about, their thumbs stuck up their drooling mouths.
I stuck my comb back where it was heavily knotted – a toothy reminder to attend to it later. I bunched the remaining hair up and looked at myself in the mirror. This is what my mother would call ‘Kothamalli Kattu’ (A bunch of coriander leaves). I went back to the meeting.
After a strenuous day at work, I found relief in the form of my partner, who decided to make dinner for me, and offered to clean up the war zone that the kitchen was.
‘I wanted you to learn a lesson. The lesson is, you don’t deserve it’ she said.
Puzzled, I looked around. There she was.
Professor Trelawney was standing with a bunch of black hair on her left hand and a pair of yellow scissors (my herb scissors) on her right, leaning on the wall on which the kitchen mop was already a prop.
‘I told you so’, said the kitchen mop and shrugged.
I looked at myself in the mirror.
A strange face greeted me.
I was bald again.
I woke up in a dizzied sweat, and ran straight to the mirror. On my way there, Shalini was running around trees in Pachai Nirame and Shobana stood by the banks of a river in a blouseless saree with her hair flying in the wind.
I switched the light on in the bathroom, took a deep breath because it was just a dream. I looked at myself in the mirror, and shrieked.
Professor Trelawney stood there. She was dressed in a black robe and held up a pair of yellow scissors on her right hand. Her left hand had my hair — my personal coriander bunch. No wonder she was using the herb scissors.
I really was bald again. What a terrible nightmare!