It was in 2018 that I first started growing out my hair. At first, I was confused as to whether I really wanted it or not and thought that it would be too cumbersome to carry it around.
At first it was the shape of an upturned boat on my head, with a plateau like shape emanating from above and waves splashing upward the forehead. But gradually the hair grew and within 3-4 months, my hair was a thicket and looked like a badly made Afro which I like to call The Tortoise phase. At that time, my head got a lot of attention. Everyone seemed to be staring at me, some laughing and ridiculing while many looking at it with envy and some with a bit of admiration. I felt like a mini celebrity who attracted attention everywhere I went and being afraid of the limelight for like forever these were extremely difficult and painful situations for me. I couldn’t get respite for even a minute after I stepped out my home; people who came to walk in the garden in the morning asked for a selfie with me just to show his colleagues my hair (Yes, that really happened. I have one witness.) and every other uncle came to me and whispered in my ear asking whether it was real or was I wearing a wig. But I was tenacious and nothing deterred me except obviously the occasional spells of self pity and distaste that made me feel to just get up and cut my hair. Yet, I got through them. The cumshaw of this was that I no longer needed to tell people that I studied arts and no longer had to see their faces fall into disappointment as many of them were already wrecked with admiration.
Then came the phase when my hair started getting longer; it didn’t curl up any more and make a mound and so started the flat phase which I like to call the Dog’s ear phase. In this phase, my hair drooped and grew to a side but was never long enough to tuck it in or kept in a tangle free way. It flapped around in the wind, turning inside out and lay that way till I passed my fingers through them to straighten it out a bit. Everyone started giving me free reviews for my hair that it would be better to keep the tortoise phase or to keep it short. It was around this time that my faith began to wobble. I was conscious of the hair being long enough to have a life of its own but not enough to be tethered anywhere and I began to question whether I really wanted this and every day when I passed from near a saloon, I longed for the sweet sound of snipping around my hair. But this phase also came with an advantage. Soon, I became a nobody again and could breathe freely. I could go in and out of places and nobody would look at my drooped down, patted hair. I will say it was genuinely a relief. But it was short lived as it only took about a month or two for my hair to graduate and take up the Master’s degree. Then came the phase which could have gone and gotten its doctorate if I hadn’t cut off its wings. That phase turned out to be the longest one as I carried it around for 6 months or so, in which I was derogated and exalted in every manner possible and I took it with a great deal of perspiration.
I like to call this phase The Squirrel as it looked like a squirrel sleeping on my head with its furry, fuzzy tail hanging about from the side of my head. Here, I was called a woman many times but in some derogatory way which I couldn’t understand yet couldn’t ignore. I was called a eunuch with much distaste which I took in my stride in a similar way. I was called ugly, effeminate and was downright looked upon with disgust and apprehensiveness. Aunties used to call me out just to say that the hair looked ugly and bad and that it didn’t suit a boy to do such things yet there were other aunties too who would fuss about seeing my hair that I will fall sick with too much perspiration not considering that they dealt with a similar problem everyday. But similarly I got admiration too. Everyone came to know me through that fat wad of hair. People who were waiting beside me for the green light, asked me which products I used to get such hair, smiled and looked admiringly at my head. Many people though couldn’t see my face would know that it was me who was approaching due to the squirrel sleeping on my head who would stretch sometimes playfully with the coltish wind. Also, I got the fame, that I wasn’t so passionate about, back and as you can see it wasn’t just appreciation. Boys sniggered at me, which they did even before I grew my hair, if I was seen doing any work that was ostensibly the ‘work done by women’ but with the addition of long hair it somehow felt and was different and men became as crass as to ask me whether I had lost my genitalia amidst growing my hair.
Parenthesis : I didn’t set upon to deride the society I live in but I am just presenting the facts that came to my view during my experiment. Growing my hair turned out to be a very valuable lesson for me on how the Indian mind works and the gender roles that are followed so adherently where even I couldn’t stretch my hand out of the “cultural values and traditions” though I am privileged in many ways others are not. I came to know that people who speak out and expound their woke-ness may just be hypocrites and I could only wonder what others went or go through when even such trivial things bothered my core. It was with a heavy heart that I cut my hair off before it went down my shoulders which I would have liked to call the Medusa but I happen to be lucky for the time being and can achieve it again if I set my heart to it. I will wait and see what will happen in that phase and will duly report it to you. Till then, I bid you adieu.