Wednesday, September 24, 2014

New Year 2014: Do or dye

(Published in Business Standard on December 28, 2013)

This friend of mine who has just had her ears operated swears that she now hears a constant concert of crickets singing inside her head that keeps her up at night. I found this very funny until I became aware of a whooshing sound inside my own head that is growing louder by the day. I’ve figured out what it is: the Doppler effect of yet another year blasting by.

When I was ten years old, time moved so slowly that it seemed certain that I would get old and die waiting to turn twenty. Things improved in my twenties, when I was too busy being confused and depressed by the world to actually notice the passage of time. The thirties, on balance, sucked so much that the universe slowed down the rate at which time passed in order to fit in all the suckiness. The forties, I’m happy to report, have thus far been fantastic, which is probably why time has suddenly begun to move like greased lightning. Time flies when you’re having fun. Now I’m told that it might be all because of my hair.

You can’t tell from the monochrome author illustration that appears above this column, which makes me look like Jack Nicholson in The Shining without the star appeal, but I have much more white hair than your average forty-something-year-old. At least this is what I have to assume when I look around me at the oceans of average forty-something Indians who continue to have lustrous raven locks. It’s not that I have a distinguished streak here and there; more than half my hair is grey, and the other half seems to have fallen out along the way.

There was a time when barbers would ask me whether I was having my hair streaked white. I didn’t know that was even a thing, but it was apparently all the rage, and not only among ten-year-olds in a hurry to grow up. People approved of the naturally aged look.

In the forties you’re too busy having fun to notice that everyone has suddenly changed their minds about things like acceptable hair colour. Last weekend I innocently entered a hotel restroom to mind my own business, when a lady of indeterminate age accosted me. She actually postponed entering a bathroom stall and relieving herself in order to tell me that I was “very brave.” When I asked why, she said, “You don’t dye your hair.” Then she added, “You should dye your hair.” She was clearly using the word “brave” in the sense of “extremely stupid”.

When people make helpful suggestions about how to fix my physical appearance, such as that I should thread my moustache or pluck my eyebrows or suck in my tummy, or wear something else for chrissakes, my heels grow small little steel spikes that dig deep into the ground. It’s like my superpower. I’ve never dyed my hair, I told her, and I’m unlikely to start now. “Dye your hair,” she said grimly. “You’ll regret it if you don’t.”

There was a time when I did not receive vague threats from hair colour aficionados in hotel bathrooms. I miss that time. That time has marched on, apparently all over my person. 2013 whooshed by faster than 2012, but if the Freelance Lady Stylist of the Bathrooms is right, 2014 will be gone even faster, and it’s only going to go downhill from there unless I make a hair appointment stat.

Meanwhile, Happy New Year to all our readers, and also to those of you who only look at the pictures. I’m going to ask the art department to colour them in.

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