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Hair today, gone tomorrow

| Updated on September 11, 2020 Published on September 11, 2020

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A reader misses the local salons, but finds succour in a pair of scissors

* The novel coronavirus has been stifling people in so many different ways. Some of the top-end salons have opened up, but I don’t see too many people going there

Dear Editor,

Maggie Tulliver’s was an act of defiance in The Mill on the Floss; mine was of utter frustration. She used a large pair of scissors; I had to make do with a small pair, a paper-cutter. She chopped off her thick curls; I got rid of the straggly strands that tickled my neck through day and night. I pulled at the tufts with one hand, and sawed them off with the scissors in the other. She wept, I laughed.

Dear Editor, I can’t remember when I last cut my hair — or if I ever did so at all. As a child, my hair was occasionally trimmed by my sister. Older by several years and an avid reader of teen magazines, she knew all about fringes and pageboy cuts. She would make me sit on a wooden stool, make a hole in a newspaper large enough for my head to go through, and then place the paper around my neck. Snip, snip, snip, she went.

I must say I miss her, now miles away — and all the wonderful people, mostly women, who cut my hair over the years. How easy life was once! You’d land up at a salon, even the two-chair local parlour, and somebody there would wash your hair and give it a nice trim and a style. I had little to contribute there — for I am like putty in the hands of the hairdresser and let them do what they want to do to my hair. I had once mustered up the courage to tell the local parlour owner that the short haircut she gave me made my face look round. But it is round, she pointed out, rather unkindly, I thought. Since then, I have kept my own counsel.

Now that the Covid-19 pandemic and the continuing lockdown have brought the shutters down, I miss her too. I often think about all those young women she’d employed and I wonder how they are making a living. Some of them were married and were the breadwinners. Some were young mothers. The novel coronavirus has been stifling people in so many different ways. Some of the top-end salons have opened up, but I don’t see too many people going there.

I don’t see the Italian barbers either. We called them Italian, because there was a time, decades ago, when their customers sat on a makeshift seat made of bricks — eent in Hindi — on the pavements. Later, of course, chairs replaced the bricks. The client would sit facing a wall, a white sheet wrapped around him, while the barber would first lather his face for a shave, and then, once that was done, cut his hair.

The one hairdresser I don’t miss is a male barber who ruined my childhood. I was 10, and had the role of a gypsy king in an Enid Blyton musical that our class was staging. The night before the play, someone (I fear it may have been the aforementioned sister) decided that I needed a haircut. The only place open was the barber in the local market. Give her a boy cut, my well-read sister said to the barber, before immersing herself in one of the dog-eared film magazines kept in the shop. When she looked up, she (and I) realised that he had not read the Elles and Seventeens that she had. He had taken her words literally, and given me a crew cut. I went to my all-girls’ school with the scalp showing, and if I didn’t put my best in the play that day, it wasn’t my fault.

But if I ever do meet him again, dear Editor, I am going to shake his hand warmly. I have no quarrel with him anymore. After having given myself what looks like a crew cut, I am at peace with the world. And am atmanirbhar, to boot.

Yours hair-raisingly,

Maggie 2.0

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Published on September 11, 2020
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