Sunday, June 5, 2016


I don’t really know if preparing for a loss insulates your pain from the loss when it actually occurs. With all the men in my family bald, and my dad holding on to a hairline that receded not over a few inches, I always knew I would grow up to be a bald man. It was difficult to imagine how one loses one’s hair little by little, almost at a pace which shows only in timelines defined by images printed on Kodak paper. And as a school going kid, I never knew how I would deal with it when the inevitable happens. I just knew that it would happen someday. Like all things that you expect would happen in your life – marriage, kids, family, job, responsibilities, baldness.

I remember writing the twelfth grade pre-Board exams, when I ran my fingers through my thick mane and around seven-eight strands of hair fell on the examination sheet. I brushed it off like it was eraser residue. There were bigger issues to take care of, like admissions in University of Delhi. The bigger things seemed sorted less than a couple of months from then, with spring and monsoon and autumn. But my biological functions seemed to have developed a special relationship with autumn, holding on to it like it was its first love, and then showing its love for the season through a representation of it on my head. Imitation is the best form of flattery, it seems.

I lost hair at a pace that was not really visible to others possibly because I was never lucky enough to have someone else take a shower with me. The Dadi understood my pain though. Palms full of almond oil would be massaged onto my head every night. And, sarson ka tel. Then some Amla. Then some Citridora. Olive oil. Chameli. Cooking oil too, maybe. I could never tell.

The Mother had her own set of remedies. Spoons full of almond powder with pepper and sugar. Then I was put on a diet of lauki juice and Baba Ramdev’s nail polish routine with Anulom Vilom, Kapaal Bhaati and a couple of other nasal exercises that made me sound like I could be the brand ambassador for Hawkin’s new silent pressure cookers – the ones that come with whistles that can only hiss. But again, that’s wishful thinking for a balding man.

My parents realized soon after that the only way to calm me down was to take me to a dermatologist. The first and the best thing that the doctor suggested was not to put any more oil on my head. I was prescribed a couple of tablets, a few supplements and Minoxidil. That sweet little potion made by the devil. Minoxidil.

Soon, the Dadi’s daily routine included questioning the doctor’s qualifications because who is stupid enough to not suggest sarson ka tel to cure baldness. The fact that my grandfather is bald and still polishes his pate with sarson ka tel, apparently, speaks wonders about the product’s effectiveness.
Anyhoo, Minoxidil became my messiah. It “arrested” my hair fall in less than fifteen days, just like the little usage manual suggested. The volume of hair on my head had started improving and I could preen like I was Shahrukh Khan of my college campus. Or so I believed.

By the time I was done with my undergrad three years later, my hair had stuck around in its full glory. I have pictures on my facebook profile as proof – the same pictures that people look at and say, “Wow, you used to look so good” – which now brings me to the next part of the story.

I don’t know if I can convey it the way I actually felt it, and I’m probably going to do it at the risk of sounding super vain – Hair loss, for me, has been extremely hard to deal with.

The effect of Minoxidil pretty much wore off by the time I started with my CA articleship training. I could see my hair thinning. I would blame it on the nature of work, the stress of the Goliath exams I had to take, and many-a-time on the occasional break-ups. You know, how your insecurities hit you hardest at the places where it hurts the most?

I was probably the youngest and the first in my set of friends to be going through the terror. They say how men think about coitus every two minutes. For me, that coitus was hair loss – that too not at the right places; if you know what I mean.

I would cry myself to sleep on a lot of days – affected by instances such as a boy on the street asking me to pass the ball, addressing me as “uncle”. There was a time when I was told I looked much younger than my actual age, and then transitioning to the phase in your life when people who meet you for the first time begin to ask you if you’re married, when you’re all of the age of twenty-three is kinda-sorta disturbing to say the least. For a break-up for which I never got an explanation, I would link it to my hair loss and consequent “ugly looks”. It sounds silly, really; but then that’s what our insecurities make us, no? Really, really silly!

I started a treatment with one of the leading trichology centres in the capital. It brought some very visible difference to my hair, and over the years, I seemed to have kind of made peace with the gradual loss. Or so it only seemed.

Enter post-grad. I recently moved away from home to a new town. It’s a town with some very good looking people as I would always openly admit. Well, if you ask me, I’ve never really been attracted to a person on the basis of their looks. Their personality and the kind of conversations they make have always been my weak spot. However, I don’t know why one happens to assume the worst about the others and think of their judgment as skewed. Again, maybe, it’s just the insecurities playing their little game that I think most others would like or dislike me based on how good or bad I look on the scale of physical attractiveness. It is really embarrassing to admit to this at the age of twenty-five – just like it is to admit to a lot of other things that go on in our heads. It’s bloody pathetic how you can’t even admit to these things openly lest you be thought of as a vain idiot, or an insecure little wuss, or too immature for your age, or someone fishing for sympathy guised as compliments to give you some social validation. It’s frikkin’ sad how such social validation even matters as much as it does. Probably as much as wanting to get into a McKinsey right after an MBA because that sounds like the next best thing to add to one’s list of accomplishments.

So while I’m airing my dirty laundry, why not admit to nights when I’ve been mopey and sad AT THE AGE OF FRIKKIN’ TWENTY FIVE, worrying about how I will probably never be loved as much as many others who do not have to deal with this shit. I realize how stupid this is while I write it, and I’ll probably go hide my face under a rock when this goes up on the blog. But again, this blog started as an exercise to expose my vulnerabilities and face my fears, and I must do justice to the whole plan I’ve been following by openly admitting to this and getting it off my chest.

I recently shaved off all the hair on my head. It may have looked like this one moment of craziness to those who witnessed it in person. To anyone who asked, I mentioned that I did it because I just felt crazy and it was such a spontaneous action. You say these things because they now go with the image you project – a man with a shaved head. A man with a shaved head is either a Buddhist monk (which I clearly am not), or some really crazy brother of Raghu Ram from MTV Roadies, who will do all these crazy things and not give a rat’s ass about social approval.

But again, I shaved my head for a reason which is probably the most common reason for people to shave their heads for – hair loss. And while it makes me feel extremely liberated, with not a care for what my hair looks like, it also makes me feel weird thinking that I no longer look like the simple CA that I am. I will probably have to build some muscle now and show my fist to people when I meet them, jokingly acting like I will punch their face. Living up to an image, again. So to avoid all of that non-sense and to really not give a rat’s ass about social approval (as all bald men are expected not to), here was the story of why I shaved my head.

It’ll probably take some amount of getting used to – for my family, my friends, my clients and above all, myself. I’ll have to give it enough time to not be surprised by what I look like in the mirror. I’ll have to get used to being called Taklu, Ganju Patel, Rakesh Roshan and the like – all funny names, really. But then again, I’ll probably live in the hope that someday, someone might call me a Dwayne Johnson. Or better still, Sarthak Ahuja.

Picture and Head Shave Credits: Ashwin Chandrasekher