Having grown up on a diet of Nancy Drew mysteries, I often imagined myself tossing my mane à la the detective with the titian crop, and zooming away in my sedan. Blessed with a thick raven swathe instead (blame the genes), I found brunettes looking glamorous only in those Archie comics. As I exited my teens, I made up my mind that when the sparklers would appear in my hair, I would sweep them up in a burgundy wrap.
Years rolled on. I moved to Mumbai and the tresses downsized in a trice. When a few errant silvers appeared, I obviously sheathed them under the overgrowth. It became second nature, combing the raven top in a jiffy over the few gleaming whites into a smooth top knot. My version of the chignon. It sufficed, in zipping up the flyaways and the mutinous. Then the brood bonanza happened and the blacks began to flee albeit at a faster rate. At this point, the hairy dilemma set in.
The chemical kiss would ruin the quality of my hair, my stylist argued, coercing me into sheer submission. (Representational photo: Reuters)
Why dye? My hairstylist surprisingly sniffed in disapproval each time I broached the subject of colouring my locks. The chemical kiss would ruin the quality, she argued, coercing me into sheer submission. A little bothered now by the telltale appearance, I began to scrounge around for a quick fix. I articulated my concern to him. Expectedly, he poked fun at my vanity. Undeterred, I snooped and sleuthed and discovered the solution. Henna that slept overnight in a swirl of coffee powder and the deep-hued tea leaf strain. It smelt even more terrible than it looked and felt like an icy shroud around my head. I wanted to look like Cher in her glam renditions on screen and ended up looking like Tintin in real life instead. To compound my woes, the eggy smell simply refused to depart from my hair for two days, as I had to yoke in the yolk et al for follicular nourishment to beat agent dehydrator in henna.
I refused to give up, scouring blogs and then some, to come up with another hero ingredient to colour my locks back into dark submission. Beetroot juice squirted into the mucky mix, as my saviour. Chugging the ruby vegetable around in the mixer when the family nodded off, I poured the goodness into the mehendi with a satisfied smirk. The deed was done. What came undone was the colour. I had mushrooming tendrils in carrot colour, framing my face. Sepia tones work beautifully in albums but this homegrown sepia run looked anything but cool, I wailed. “Ma, we think you are growing old,” chimed the kids, exchanging looks at my bizarre strand experiments.
It is amazing the nuggets you unearth when you want to. When the white strand zapper failed in the cosmetic spray, I found out that the mascara wand doubled up as black magic for tiny wisps of white along my forehead. It was hard work, undoubtedly, yanking the hair in place to sit obediently and cloak the ranks behind. Then his cousin winged in from the US, clucking and clapping her hands about the brilliant indigenous formula in indigo mehendi. I warmed up instantly (fobbing off the prospective indigo jackal snickers) mixing the rather overpriced organic henna with the caffeine brew. Following up the second day with a quick mix application of the jet black mehendi to mute the overall hair complexion to deep brown. Quite a nuisance-ridden chore especially when successive hair washes stripped the strands faster than I could kiss them black.
Finally, it has taken apartment-bound life through the unending lockdowns to make peace with my sparklers. Call it what you may, the low maintenance anthem, the end of a vain era, the challenges of current climes. I realised I had been clinging in futility to the go-natural narrative, buying into the grooming mane goodness spiels. I have decided to honour my locks, and spare them the dark and lovely artificial complexion. My friendship with my hair has survived hiatuses, silences and silly experiments. I cherish it now as a connection that makes me savour the natural tress tonic and vitamin cocktail of calm, care and keratin-free life. No more hair scares.