2017: January 1 and time for New Year resolutions. I did not have innumerable false entries in my notebook as the main was already ticked in my mind. This was ‘To dye or not to dye’ (To be, or not to be: that is the question”. Hamlet quote (Act III, Sc. I) and for few me predicament of Shakespearean proportions that persisted in upsetting my lifestyle. I was no Hamlet, Prince of Denmark but an ordinary citizen living my moments on daily stage and the anxiety attacks about something inconsequential (to others) needed a fast track solution.
Flashback… I was in my late thirties, happily married with shiny black-wavy hair that was neighbors/friends/foes envy. I savored this flash-in-the-pan importance till one fine morning a shriek brought family members scurrying to my room. ‘Where is the rat, the ghost, the intruder’ and not finding anything or anyone left as they had come. A squeaky “I discovered a flaw in my mane…a white strand shining bright on top of my head’ was sliced by my husband’s retort ‘You should grey graciously’. I gawked at his retreating back, consoling myself that ‘preconceptions…limit creativity’ and a person will see what he sees.
A limited focus is a devil’s workshop and next few days my ‘grey matter’ worked overtime to ambush the ‘freaking gray’, to snip it, color it or camouflage with a golden hairpin. I attempted the last and was gloating at my success when few days later a friend squealed, “Oh you have white hair”. Excusing myself I bolted to the washroom and there they were….four, five, six strands, gray and glorious.
From here began my journey into the world of hair colors, researching different brands flaunting labels from ammonia free, permanent, glossy, soft on hair etc. A friend suggested Henna for ‘a nice red tone to your hair. ‘A redhead…there is nothing to lose’ and I was ready to experiment visualizing a halo of gorgeous wavy hair contouring my face. Few hours spent at my favored salon and I emerged burnished brown to consternation of family members. Red hair does not gel with brown skin unless I tried ‘whitening creams’ to have a ‘fair and lovely complexion’. This was no gainer as I was already married and did not have to fall in line with Indian matrimonial adverts of ‘wanted fair complexioned, smart English-speaking bride.’
The color journey continued …mixing black with henna tones, experimenting with different brands such as L’Oreal, Revlon, Garnier or organic hair colors picked up during journeys and stays in Muscat, Sultanate of Oman, Boston, New York, Hong Kong. Finally the brush settled on Revlon because of its softer non-toxic mix.
I had to draw a line somewhere and continued with my light brown combination till there was another jolt to my complacency. We were at our favorite coffee bar when Ms. B strutted in with bleached Blonde mane. Mouths agape, stunned, flabbergasted at the audacity to turn black into yellow. Secretly we admired her courage, she was looking stupendous in matching off shoulder dress and stilettos. Needless to say a few days later there were blonde impersonations.
Life moved on with travels to countries and continents and hair took back stage till my Hong Kong beautician advised ‘you should go in for Botox. It will give you a younger, gentler look to gel with your hair color.’ ‘Just few pricks here and here…touching my face… and you are good for few months.’ Temptation did rear its devilish head and for few days my husband would catch me staring at my profile in the mirror.
In this hair journey I missed out the hair loss, the effect on my waves and texture. Where earlier I had a thick mop it was slowly shedding and getting lighter. The dot ‘patch’ on my head was increasing in size and from here began another obsession…. visits to doctors… homeopaths, Chinese herbal doctors (Hong Kong), Rogaine hair treatment, ginger and onion paste, Apple cider vinegar hair massage. I changed my hairstyle using hair bands to hold my hair on top. The coloring ritual continued though there were hints that the hair loss might be due to chemicals. But late fifties were too early to join the gray brigade.
In 2016 the dilemma reared its ugly head ‘to dye or not to dye’ and I finally decided to move on, to keep the thinning strands and threw the ‘sword’ or the color sachet out of the window into the trash bin.
Celebrating my new look I promptly posted my ‘dame’ visage on my Facebook Account. Likes and comments poured in with friends exclaiming at my wondrous locks, ‘oh you are so brave.’ ‘I dread the day I turn gray.” To the last I felt like saying ‘Lady you are already gray if you stop the artificial appendix to your personality’.
But there is always a niggle-of-doubt, an indecisive moment, no matter how brave you try to be. Recently, while waiting to be served at a coffee shop in New Delhi, a waiter addressed me as ‘mataji’ (Hindi for mother). He must be few years younger. I do not mind youngsters, teens and children addressing me as Mataji but this was preposterous. The expression on my friend’s face ‘you asked for it’ was my answer and I had to be content with my ‘salt and pepper’ look.
Right or wrong, one resolution was dutifully endeavored.