By all appearances I am Indian. But my head tells a different story. Perhaps Japanese. Definitely South Asian, but not the type of South Asian I was supposed to have descended from. Or perhaps I was a mix. I had heard that my great grandparents had come off the outskirts of the Nepalese border. The Nepalese after all seemed a lot more Chinese than Indian. The borders are not very far from each other. One imagined a mass migration bringing people over the mountains, through ice and snow at one point in our lives. And by mere occupation of land, we became naturalized citizens of India.
“What the heck did you do!” my sister Anjali asked.
It wasn’t so much a question as it was a statement of fact. A fact that didn’t need to be explained.
“Haven’t I been saying that I was going to shave it all off?” I replied.
Up to the point of getting into the car and coming home, I’d been confident, wearing my head proudly. It didn’t feel much different. Lighter perhaps. Until she exclaimed.
My mother walked in on key. There was a deafening silence.
One look at me and she remarked,
“All I can say is, hair grows back.”
She walked off without another word.
I passed my hand through my buzzed hair again. The head confidence had worn off.
From the left, everything looked well in proportion. It was the right side of my head that I had a problem with. Always looked so elongated, so unnatural. Not at all flattering, hair or hairless.
I was sure that I would look grand, powerful.
“It’s not going to look good,” my hair stylist, Judy had said.
“I’ve thought about this for over three weeks and now that I have made a decision you decide no?”
“It is not going to look good,” she repeated.
“You have a Chinese head, flat at the back!”
“In some evolved circles, that would be a racist comment,” I noted.
“Well fortunately for me this isn’t one of them,” she retorted.
Now, I was beginning to believe that maybe she was on to something.
Perhaps I needed to think powerfully. Most of the Buddhist monks looked fine. Perhaps I needed a robe, something that wrapped around my shoulders and highlighted my neck.
“Your forehead is too large for that style,” Anjali remarked thoughtfully.
I knew she was being helpful in her own direct way.
“I know. I didn’t realize it was going to be that short.”
My voice was beginning to retreat. My confidence was dwindling. I could feel it in my bones.
I decided that this was going to be a test of my vanity. Pass by the mirror for at least three weeks without looking at it. There wasn’t much that I could do with the style. It simply existed on top of my skull. Pieces jutting out on the crown because the stylist had decided that she wasn’t going to shave it.
“We could come to a compromise,” she had said.
There are times when some things can’t be compromised. This was one of them. It was either the monk look or the worldly one. But there was no in between. Not with the shape of my head. The flathead as Judy called it.
A haircut that does not flatter and that cannot be mended is a helpless feeling. There was nothing to be done. Hands were tied. No amount of blow drying or gelling could help now. The shape was here to stay, at least for six weeks. Six excruciating weeks.