...and then

Saturday, 27 November 2010

Sincerely, Scary Hair Lady

I’ve been moping. Moping like I have never moped. My chin and spirits have been in competition with my level of tolerance of SMSese. I’ve lost something huge. Possibly the biggest loss in my life till date, barring the death of my grandmother. And when that loss is coupled with the realisation that I am partially responsible for it, you will understand that where I am is not enviable at all.

So I’ve moped, felt sorry, gotten angry, given in to hurt, felt betrayed, dealt with unimaginable guilt, killed suspicion, and flirted with confusion. And at the end of an excruciatingly painful week, I feel a certain sense of equilibrium now. Which, you would think, is when I should have gone to get my hair done and come out feeling fantastic. But do I ever do what’s good for me? What’s that I hear you say? No? That’s right! I always choose that which is good for me only in a secret way that I know, when the world can see that I’d be better off sticking a sharp pencil in my eye and squiggling it about, while standing on hot coals and an unfed boa constrictor wrapped around my neck, than doing what I am currently doing.

Blinded by pain and flush with unspent money, I walked into a salon to get my eyebrows in shape. First, physical normalcy, I thought. I sat in a black comfortable chair, breathed in that strange smell all salons have – a mixture of wax, a little food, chemicals and room freshener. I tell the lady with a very obvious cleavage that all I want is threading. But even before she’s finished twisting the thread onto her fingers, my mouth has run ahead of itself saying words that my brain has definitely banned. All I hear is, “… cut…hair… highlights...” 
This, dear reader, is where I should have jumped up and run out saying, “Thanks but I am crazy and I’ll risk looking like Bert from Sesame Street till I find my marbles.” (yes, I have a unibrow when untamed). But I don’t. I sit there waiting for her to finish threading my eyebrows into feminine arches, thinking once that is done I’ll find the determination to tell her my mouth misbehaves and says things it shouldn’t. And that I didn’t really mean I wanted to cut my hair or have it look like a zebra. 

But when she asks me what kind of highlights I’d like, my misbehaving, rather independent mouth takes over. “Give me red. I want bold bands of red going riot in my hair,” I hear myself say. And hear a 100 alarm bells go off. Because you see, I’ve been wanting highlights, subtle ones, inspired by Lionel Richie singing (what I thought was romantically) “I long to see the sunlight in your hair” since I was 16. My mum, in good sense and complete understanding of my propensity for mistakes, said no, of course. 

I waited till I was 25 and went for it with a vengeance. I walked into N&Y in Bombay and told them I want highlights in my brown, waist-length thick hair. And they delivered. But guess what? Blonde highlights and hazel. My skin tone at best is a yellow-gold (as pretentious as that sounds). Blonde is NOT for me unless I wear a bikini at all hours. (I don’t.) 

Blowdried and set, I went home feeling like a slightly crestfallen glamour puss, but glamorous all the same. Three days the incredibly sexy blow dry stayed. And then I washed my hair. The frustration of discovering that I can’t blow dry my hair salon-like was quickly replaced by my utter horror at how awful the image in the mirror that stared back at me looked. No smooth cowlicks covering my forehead, no sleek pane of shimmerng hair caressing my back gently. My fringe kept getting away from me and the rest of my hair looked like it had been hit by a severe case of static electricity. 

Anyway, to cut a long story short, I let it be for three painful months because I was too stubborn to do anything about it, thinking I’d get used to it and it would get better. Three months of utter and complete hiding under bandanas and dupattas, I walked into another salon and begged her to get rid of it all. I went all black. And glad as bloody hell. 

This is a memory branded, hot and severe, in every part of my brain. Or at least that’s what I thought. Clearly, there is a part of my brain that escaped it and acted up when I sat in Jenny’s chair. You’d think when I heard myself say “highlights” this memory would have reared its enormous head and shocked me out of my chair, right? Wrong. All it did was meekly accept when Jenny said, “Not red, m’dear. It is so last season. I know exactly what to give you for your skin and hair tone,” she said. Louder warning bells rang. Did I listen? Nope. 

So I surrendered to her cut and colour. “One inch off, my dear,” she asks. I say yes, I like to wear my hair long. Quickly, at least three inches are lying on the floor. “Now for colour. I’ll give you something between blonde and red, it’ll be perfect for your skin,” she says. This is the time when I  should have stuck my finger in a live electrical socket and killed myself. But no. My head was at look-at-my-cleavage Jenny’s mercy for as long as she wanted. 

A few hours, a shampoo and a blow dry later – blonde fucking highlights. Again. 
But ah, dear reader, I am not that big a fool any more. I looked at myself and uttered the requisite expletives. Then I told her to fix it. Now she has. Except she gave me red -- all over. Now I look a bit like Sara Rue, except not half as pretty.

Sunday, 21 November 2010

The Moon is Perfect


Today, the moon, content, smug and stark white, pasted itself on a dark sky, hanging benignly between two craggy mountains. And if there was one perfect thing in the world right then, it was that.

For, everything else in my world right now was like watching tomatoes in a blender. You could see bits of my life shattering and tearing, pieces of red and a little yellow splattering the lid of the blender. Soon enough, it all became a sick pink and settled down into a paste of pain. Smooth, almost, and without any trace of what it used to be before the ride the blender gave it.

Can I make a tomato out of it? No. But if I cook it right and use it in, say, a curry, or on a pizza, it will be know that there are tomatoes here. But will it be a tomato again? No.

And that is where I stand today. Not knowing if I am the blender or the tomato – perpetrator or victim. Or both. Or neither. Should I just wake to tomorrow saying shit happens, or should I be true to my heart and go through the wringer, put myself through the pain yet again and emerge raw, new and wholly vulnerable again?

As I walked watching the moon, so perfect from afar, so flawed from up close, I told myself everything in life was like that. Something that’s indescribably beautiful is also astoundingly ugly. I don’t look for perfect – in anything. When I buy something, when I make friends, when I give my heart – I tend to find that which is not whole, that which is not perfect and nurture it. Not to make it whole, not to attain perfection but to cherish the irregularities of life. To feel under my fingertips, the nubby texture of life.

In that process, I chip away from my heart, my soul, my body to nurture. I do it without asking, as the clouds part with their burden of rain on parched land. Sometimes, after the clouds are light, the earth gets a rash of green. And at other times, when the clouds carry too much to know their limits, the parched land below floods. If I can stop myself, I nurture. If I can’t I destroy. Even as the clouds are sleepingly unaware of it, so too am I.


My box is empty, my acts are done,
The lights are dim and tired.
I walk alone, the spotlight follows me;
And I wave at the face I’ve never seen.

Suddenly, he dims the spotlight just a little
And tells me it suits my sagging shoulders,
My sad shoulders, shoulders that speak
And tell him everything else won, not me.

I smile. I think I’ll go home with him.
Because tonight, with the applause dead
And my tricks, ashes, I am quite sure
No one knows me the way he does.

If only for a night, where I don’t have to be.
For I have no tricks to explain
Nor words to rage, soothe, or accuse with.
All I have is tonight. There will time for the end tomorrow.

Friday, 19 November 2010


I found you dusty and unkempt, under a carpet of ordinary lives.
What should I do with you, I thought.
You, a reluctant gem, you sleeping genie.

Should I dust you off and set you in my ring?
Or should I let you be to sleep peacefully,
Happy, content, unawakened?

Could I give you hand-mirror, I thought,
Just so you saw your fire, your deep red rareness?
And then kiss that flame to life only to burn in it?