After 29 years – oh well one day to go, tomorrow being the day I was born – I have finally realized that change is constant…particularly hairstyle change. My changing hairstyles – whether self-chosen or instigated by Mother – have also reflected my changing state of mind. I have also realized that (unfortunately) Mothers seem to think they have the best idea of what style looks best us. For a long period – till 25 years for me and I suspect adolescence for today’s generation – it is our mothers who largely decide our hairstyles. Even when we are 45, mothers will often comment, complain and try and get us to change how our hair looks.
Looking back at pictures of yore, I think my mother played around with my hairstyle a lot… Sometimes I wonder if that should be allowed. Y’know how some mothers make baby boys look like girls and other mothers make that fountain-choti on top of their little girls heads? (Choti means ponytail and ‘fountain-choti’ is the one where you have a ponytail on top of your head and the hair spouts out) My hair has changed so tremendously in texture over the years that I still have doubts if my parents have told me the truth about my parentage. Three things make me highly suspicious I could be a case of a baby-mix-up:
1. I was born on a train. Almost.: My grandparents stayed in this small town called Nepanagar – was known for newspaper mills – and my 9-month pregnant mom was on a train to her parents’ place. An hour or so from Nepanagar, mom’s contractions began and they had to pull the chain, stop the train, get off at this town called Khandwa – also the birthplace of Kishore Kumar, but I can’t sing to save my life – and there I was born in a local hospital. My mother says the doctor who delivered me looked like Kadar Khan. I am supposed to have absolutely, straight, jet black hair and looked Chinese. HOW could I have changed THAT much over the years? What if Kadar Khan switched babies?
2. Mother also says that I cried instantly (LOOK at Kadar Khan, who wouldn’t?) and started talking at 8 months, had perfectly clear speech – it was Tamil that I learnt to speak first – and was a natural bully. Apparently when other babies were busy pooing in their diapers, I was walking around reading fairy tales and telling people how to change the décor of their house. Both my parents are not overbearing and as kids were bullied by others. Where did I pick up bullying then? Again both my parents are not very keen on reading – though Dad did pile me with books straight away – so why was I showing interest?
3. I apparently also had this strange habit of leaving my shoes at peoples’ houses and have allegedly run away on two occasions – all BEFORE the age of 3 – once with a milkman and another time with a vegetable vendor, on his bicycle handle, sitting in his vegetable basket. Apparently both times it was because they were telling me stories. Again, both my parents are very respectable (Ma is painfully shy) and themselves were known to be very obedient and harmless as kids: So whatever happened to me? My suspicions grew manifold when in one of her helpless fits at my antics – this is when I am about 22 – Ma screamed in frustration and asked, “I am simple woman. Your father is a simple man. How the hell are you such a WILDCAT?” I responded saying it was perhaps because they had picked up someone else’s baby because they’d known I would be much smarter. Haha, she was sooooo pissed at that.
To get back to the original point, my changing hairstyles – whether self-chosen or instigated by Mother – have also reflected my changing state of mind.
<-- 8 months old: Straight and black, which was cut short and made me look like a boy. It is also alleged that I had a fondness for walking around bare-chested. I looked Chinese and didn’t have a nose. (It's not a racist comment as being Chinese and not having a nose are NOT related)
3-years-old: Local tomboy, loved hot pants, had eyebrows that defied shape. I had two cases of boy-beating against me and also had the stance of a boy. I laughed loudly that was encouraged but created problems later when my father had to warn me before army parties, “Be a lady. Don’t laugh like a rickshawallah” Whatever. Even now I have to watch it so that I stand and sit “gracefully”; have given up on the laugh.
4-years-old: Head completely shaved off. You don’t have to see that. WHY do parents do that? Can you imagine going from silky smooth hair to nothing…The only thing I remember about going bald is that the scalp feels like a Velcro strip when the hair’s growing back. That was also when we were in Calcutta and perhaps why I don’t remember ANYTHING of my school years: Repressed memories.
5-years-old: Hair is now growing back and is all wavy… very suspicious. Also marks the sudden emergence of nose and the only other time that I have been skinny in life. Apparently my parents went and prayed that I would eat. And then I didn’t stop till 25!
7-years-old: Had these stupid fringe on my forehead that somehow always made me look guilty of having done something wrong. In this picture, I have done nothing to my brother except hold him down and refuse to let him move till the pic is taken. --->
9-11-years-old: Various stages of hair growing out where they went from two ponytails on the side of the head, to two pigtails that stuck out at 180 degrees and finally...
<--- 12-years-old: bushy eyebrows and thunder thighs. Also looking pissed off because I wanted to take one of those posing with finger-on-Taj Mahal’s-spiral pictures and the fucking photographer said, “Baby aap thodi nati ho.” (You are a little short)
13-20: Various stages of long hair along with various exams like 10th & 12th board exams thrown in. Also sat for the pre-medical exams to get into some medical school to become a doctor. Obviously, I didn't and then we came to Delhi and I took up a course in journalism... And started working in first year of college.
21-years-old---> Glory hair days, in this I’m posing for a shoot for India Today. We had launched thenewspapertoday.com (its now defunct) and the advert idea was to have our reporters and editors pose with the tagline being, “How new is your news?” It was a cool idea though my picture was never used in the magazine.
<--- 22-years-old: The website closed due to lack of advertisers -- also one of the first news sites to try charging people for news -- and we launched the afternoon paper Today where along with reporting, I – and other youngsters – were made to model as well. We weren’t even paid. This was posing for a story on how beer was getting popular in the summers. I don’t drink beer and though not visible, I am lying flat on the table because all the boys were tall!
23, 24: Pictures from here and there, hair similar to the above picture except that I look stoned in all pictures (I wonder why, haha) so am not putting those up.
25-years-old: The longest my hair has ever been I had taken to wearing sarees and big bindis to minimize the weight elsewhere. It’s called optical illusion. This was posing for photographer Anay Mann’s exhibition called, A Generation in Transition (has also been used in Tehelka). ---->
26-years-old: The worst hair-disaster ever when I chopped off my hair – went from reaching-butt to reaching-shoulder-blades AND had blonde highlights. Black and blonde don’t go together. Please don’t do it. Such a drastic change was the direct result of me not thinking straight at various levels…
27-years-old: Further disasters when I go in for a hair makeover thing -- which was also suggested by me, groan – for our new Friday pullout. Was working with Times of India then and had launched, What’s Hot. The first pic is before the haircut – and no, he isn’t a God-man, he was stylist and was French – and had promised that from "looking beautiful" he would make me "look stunning."
All I can say is I was stunned that's HOW short my hair was cut and apparently the whole “look” was to look disheveled.
28-years-old: This was taken on the first day of joining ibnlive.com. Had decided that the only way to survive the makeover disaster was to wait for the hair to grow out. As my Dad politely described that stage: “If you sit on the pavement with a bowl, you will look extremely convincing.”
I am the happiest I have been with my hair in a lifetime. It could also be because I have been the happiest that I have ever been in my living-alone adult life. I don’t want a new hairstyle because I am happy with the way I look. I am confident about who I am – largely that is! – I am enjoying the few people I want in my life and I am looking forward to the changes that are perhaps in the offing.
For the last two years, whenever anyone has asked, I have said I am 30. I think I am going to stick to saying ‘29’ for another year. (smiles) The best part about being 29 though is that I can look back at myself and laugh at who I was, what I tried to be and not feel bad anymore about who I can never be. Some of you have written in – others say it on my face – that my blog sounds unhappy and angry. Well, I have been both unhappy and progressively angrier for quite a while; things are slowly and surely changing. For those who have stuck around; stick around and perhaps finally, I might learn to write a happy post. I am going to be older and wiser after all!