Epic Rant

And so it begins…the epic rant that I’ve been avoiding ranting on about. Forgive me for this one but it needs to happen. Ever fiber of my being has tried to convince myself that I was ‘bigger than that’; it was trivial and it didn’t matter so much, that I’d get over it. The last part may be true– I will eventually get over it. But when my chest swells with anger at the very thought of it, I can’t deny it bothers me. What I’m talking about here is a bad haircut.

Hair does something for a woman that other things can’t. I could continue on about the femininity that is attached to hair and how we can often literally get so wrapped up in the stylistic variants and pleasure we woman get from our hair. But that’s not what this post is for. I’m here to rant about the awful haircut that was Shiva’s. I mention his name because if anyone does read this and needs a haircut in Bombay, stay far, far away from his clippers.

By now, I’ve made my rounds at beauty parlors across Juhu to Bandra. There are two I bounce between depending on what services I need. I haven’t gotten a haircut since September, before the big fat Russian/Turkish wedding. My hair didn’t grow out as expected and so I made a mental note to not return there when I was next in need of a cut. My hair grew unruly and difficult to manage. The humidity of Bombay (along with the hard water I supposed and pollution perhaps?) hasn’t exactly worked in my curly girl favor. I’ve come to adjust to life in Bombay but my hair was putting up a very clear fight.

After inquiring about a good hairstylist whom knew how to deal with curly hair I made the quick decision to follow my acupuncturists recommendation of a South Indian hair stylist named Shiva. I’m not South Indian but my hair is comparable to South Indian hair in all its thick and curliness so this seemed promising. “But don’t expect much, he’s very simple. Very good but very simple.” Perfect, I thought. A no frills award winning recommended stylist. “My acupuncturist would never lead me astray!” I thought. I trust her. I decided 5 months ago to trust her and it’s worked in my favor so this seemed no different. I made an appointment for the next day. When I walked in for the cut, I felt uneasy. ‘She wasn’t kidding’. It was beyond no-frills–the salon was dingy, at best. It was located in the posh area of Juhu and I had done my research online about the stylist. Google told me he’s done up most of Bollywood but I had to see it for myself. A part of me screamed ‘get the hell out of there, stat.’ But a bigger part of me said  ‘she warned me I would react this way. Just let it happen, Sonali.

Now to the scene of the crime—I explained to Shiva what I was looking for and he lazily agreed to deliver. I mentioned my nervous nature especially when getting a haircut. I know, I know, I need a hobby or a life, probably both. But again, forget the superficiality of it all and let me rant on. He proceeded to razor cut my hair, which I didn’t know till it was happening. It was all very surreal. I felt slices of hair disappear and before I knew it he handed me a bouquet of my hair, as if it he were being gentlemanly and my hair were a bundle of beautiful roses. I wasn’t able to process that moment until later. Just let it happen, it will come out nice. As the cut continued he had his staff hand me several magazines opening them up to the pages where he was pictured with celebrities and receiving awards. I could feel the anger and confusion building inside. WTF?!?! Is this man insane? I had my hair blown out and I reached towards the back of head. It felt thin, empty and flat. He was in no way interested in understanding how my curls fell or. He was an award-winning, competitive stylist who was also a sham. I came to learn later on that when a salon becomes a chain, many times stylists purposefully cut hair uneven or incorrectly in order to make its clients keep coming back to them. It didn’t make sense to me at first but eventually I came to see it worked; they would manipulate their client into believing their hair was one way or should be a certain way, and would continue to do this until their client actually believed it. Plus people are obsessed with straightening their hair. Curly hair is therefore not appreciated as much and so its rare to find someone who can cut it properly.  Sad but true. For Shiva, he was more interested in showing me his publicity and signs of recognition via beauty magazines.

I was so angry for so long. I told my acupuncturist about it and she suggested I pay him a visit again, that he would fix it. Fix it?! Hell no. I’m never going back there. I was so upset by it all that my anger even showed up in my Acugraph (this is a graph reading acupuncturists do to check your energy levels or chi). I couldn’t seem to get over the fact that I let this fool of man cut my hair and even worse that I cared about it so damn much. Morale of the story: listen to that inner voice when it tells you run far, far away from something. Also, live with your decisions, whatever they may be.

I’m not as angry as I was before. Hair grows back. Life goes on. We must keep moving forward. When you’re in a new city and don’t know better, you’re often reliant on someone else’s recommendation for your needs. No amount of online research could have told me Shiva’s sucked. Maybe bad haircuts are just a part of life. If one were to see my hair now they would like it wasn’t a big deal at all, it’s not as bad as I describe. The perfectionist in me smiles and says, ‘It’s not always going to work out in your favor, now.” All I know is that no matter how much I mature in life, I still feel as though a bad haircut will always certainly put me in a terrible horrible mood. END OF RANT.

A Woman’s Worth

I went to visit my newish friend on the 3rd floor this afternoon. I made an appointment for an Indian oil body massage (abhyangam) which was bomb and per typical Indian tradition, M and I stayed back to chat over homemade chai and snacks. Although I never asked her, I knew 3rd floor (3F) was no longer married/separated/man-less; there was never any sign of him around and her two kids seemed quite content that way. I figured it was none of my business and when she felt like sharing, she would. And today she did. She started off telling me about how at age 16 she used to suffer from extreme arthritis. Eventually the story developed into how at 17, she was forced into marrying ‘that man’. She explained:

“I was wrapped up in a nice white sari and asked my parents why this was happening. They told me it was because that man was coming to see me. ‘See me for what?’, I innocently asked. ‘Marriage.'”

She continued to recant the painful 12 years she spent in a remote village outside of Bangalore in what sounded like utter slavery. My chest grew heavy as she told us how her in-laws treated her as a prisoner by locking her up in her room, starving her during 5 months of her pregnancy. Her Punjabi neighbor secretly fed her when the in-laws weren’t around. 3F’s eyes grew weary when she spoke of the housework she did from morning till eve, leaving little time for anything else. She and her ex (who she mentioned was also violent) went through a nasty dowry-case battle for 4 years and are recently divorced.

The whole concept of a dowry blows my mind, its absurd and disgusting.The New Oxford American Dictionary defines a dowry as  property or money brought by a bride to her husband on their marriage. Apparently the groom’s side of the family can demand anything from the brides side: foreign cars, land, and stacks of gold are common requests. Women are treated as a form of trade merchandise whose value is to be determined by everyone except her. M reminded me how many people in India believe in and still practice the dowry system today. I’m grateful for my forward-thinking reformist maternal grandparents who were Arya Samaj members. My grandfather (Nana-ji) and his brothers fought to bring an end to the dowry system.  Nana-ji and Nani-ji never implemented the dowry theory in their household despite having 5 daughters.

It’s hard to imagine 3F experienced such hardships because when you meet her, she immediately glows. It’s the tough times that made her as strong as she is today, that’s for sure. Her kids are too cute and her family is a small, happy one. She swears that after her kids are married she will retire to her ashram in Bangalore forever in the presence of her Guruji. Her older kid’s response: ‘But MOM, who will look after MY kids and help me cook??!’, to which 3F cleverly replies, ‘we’ll find you a nice good Indian house-husband.’

Gotta love that attitude.