Author’s Note: For the last few months, humanity’s thoughts have always been underscored by the all-pervading presence of the pandemic. This humble author is no different. I have struggled for the last few months to write because everything I want to write about seems to revolve around this. So I gave up and launched the CoviMusings series. Stories of humanity finding the new normal. Click here to read all my CoviMusings!
I have been on an almost full lock down mode since March 22nd of this year. It started as a government-imposed lock down for a few months. This was followed by a self-imposed lock down, adhering to guidelines that the country I live in issue from time to time, for everyone’s safety and good health.
Being immunosuppressed, I gave up on a few things earlier than most people around me. Even before our city went into full lock down mode, I had stopped my part time cleaner who came every weekday morning and in one hour zipped through all house work. Since end March, this too fell on me and my husband to manage. More on that in another CoviMusing!
A side effect of this lack of help though was on the appearance of my hair. Or more precisely, the colour of my hair.
I’ll need to go on a short trip down memory lane to elaborate.
I began to show signs of greying in my early twenties itself. I discovered henna and began to use it to colour and condition our hair.
It comes with a bit of a lengthy prep, few hours of a cool, wet paste covering your hair and scalp, followed by several rounds of washing your hair to get the paste completely out. It basically needed almost a whole day out of your weekend. But the results were completely worth the effort!
The recipe was simple. I would make some strong tea, add it to the henna powder along with some yoghurt. I vaguely recall trying egg whites but there was a distinct raw egg white odour that accompanied the wonderful, earthy fragrance of henna so I gave that up quite early on. Over the years, a little coconut oil got added to combat the dryness that henna sometimes created on the scalp. I also added amla (Indian gooseberry) powder, a recommendation from my mother-in-law to give additional conditioning and a nice sheen to the hair.
I would leave the paste overnight and apply the henna next day in the morning. I then covered my paste-filled hair with a thin cloth to avoid the henna dropping on other surfaces. After leaving it on for two to four hours, I would then wash it off nicely with herbal powders and in later years a good shampoo and conditioner.
Since over a couple of decades, henna has continued to be my choice of hair colour as it is natural and a great conditioner for the hair.
Since March 2020 however, I gave this up quite regrettably. The reason wasn’t to join a revolution to stop using harmful products to feed my vanity. There is nothing harmful about henna. Neither was it to go all natural and begin to speak about inner beauty. No, nothing quite as lofty as that.
The reason, like my recipe for amazing hair conditioning, was also quite simple – I had no intention of adding to my workload between managing home and office to additionally clean the mess left behind in the bathroom once I was done getting the henna out of my hair.
Ground reality won against vanity. Henna took a back seat.
A couple of months into my whites beginning to show, I asked my husband if this bothered him, dropping the white elephant of the subsequent intense bathroom cleaning involved not so very subtly in the middle of the conversation.
In the twenty years I have spent with this adorable man, I knew sticky questions about appearance like “Does this make me look fatter?”, “Is this colour too loud?” weren’t his forte and he usually steered clear of them. His techniques over the years involved incoherent mumbling, pretending to actually care, pretending not to have heard me, or deftly changing the topic.
But that day, when I fully expected him to beat a retreat rather than offer to clean the bathroom, thereby implying my hair looked hideous (yes we women are all that and more, deal with it already!), gearing myself for a nice fight… he swept me off my feet instead.
He examined my hair with a very clinical and analytical look on this face and then said “You know, you’re wearing all the medals you won in life on your head!”
It was my turn to figure out the next move. I chose the simplest one and said, “Huh?”
He looked into my eyes and said, “Well, if your original hair colour is the gold standard for hair, then at this moment, I see gold, silver and bronze on your head. It’s like you are proudly displaying all the medals you won in life till date.”
Vanity may well have won one day, bathroom cleaning notwithstanding. But after a line like that… I am celebrating my wins in life instead, however big or small.
By wearing them all on my head!