In my school days, I had come across an Odia poem, two lines of which, translated freely, read like this:
He need not be knowledgeable,
Who has a head of grey;
One who pursues knowledge even in youth,
People call him wise.
So, when one day, about fifteen years ago, the wife, to her great delight, discovered the first grey hair on my head, she did not consider me to have grown wise but only grown old. She was delighted, nay, overjoyed at this great discovery because the first streak of grey on her head had appeared long before that and over the years, half of the hair on her head had shed its shiny black colour and had turned grey.(She was a junior in my college and it was her long flowing dense and silky black tresses which had first attracted me towards her.) My ideal of womanhood is Sita not because of any thing else but because she is reputed to have had long cascading silky and lustrous jet black hair which swept the floor when loosened. It is said that the legendary Shakuntala(meaning a lady with good hair) was named as such because she had long, luxurious and lustrous hair flowing down to her ankles. Even now, my eyes instinctively move towards a lady whose back is adorned with long black shiny hair, plaited or allowed to hang loosely.
Now, back to my first grey hair. On her great discovery, the lady of the house(L O H) danced and sang with uninhibited glee and called out to the daughter. The latter, who as usual was listening to an unbearably loud music with an open book in front of her, rushed out and was very much surprised to see her mother’s face beaming with uncontrolled joy, a face which used to almost always wear a frown as an inseparable ornament, as if the frown was born with her face and body, in the manner as Karna in the Mahabharat was born with the kabacha and kundala (the life-saving vest and ear-rings respectively). The kabacha was perhaps the earliest version of modern-day bullet-proof vest.
The L O H, with sparkling eyes, poured the 'GREAT BREAKING NEWS' to the daughter, with great enthusiasm. But to her utter disappointment, the daughter did not share her joy, nor did she show any sign of the ecstasy which the lady had reached. Indeed, the daughter was crest-fallen. :((((( A great sense of loss was writ large on her face. Our daughter loved my visits to her school. Whenever I went to her school, she, with an air of superiority, used to point out to her friends, my crown with a shiny crop of black hair, as a contrast to the grey and graying heads of their fathers. She used to tell me after each of my visits, how her friends turned green with envy because the hair on the heads of their fathers had turned grey years before that. And because of this, she wanted me to visit her school as often as possible, with or without any purpose. Now her disappointment was total. She looked at me and her sad eyes told me that I had let her down. The two pairs of eyes, those belonging to the mother and to the daughter respectively, were a study in contrast!!!
Presently, the two ladies went into a conference. I was a half-hearted listener. There was an animated discussion between the two, as to what was needed to correct the disaster. The older member of the self-appointed High Power Committee suggested sympathetically that I should use henna to dye my hair as she was doing. I immediately shook my head as I hated (and still do) that foul-smelling potion and I did not want to wear a saffron cap. The younger member did not suggest. She ordered that I must use some good hair-dye. Otherwise, she said, she would not be able to show her face to her friends. When I quietly but firmly shook my head once again, she barked her alternative order in a rather loud voice, the loudness surpassing even that of her favourite music – “NEVER COME TO MY SCHOOL AGAIN.”
Even after reaching the venerable status of a senior citizen, I have a fairly black stock of hair on my head, with a few strands of grey on my temples on either side, highlighting the dark shed on the top.
Indira Gandhi with her unique and famous streak of grey
Men with silver in their hair look distinguished; women with silvery hair look extinguished!!!
(This rule cannot be applied to Indiraji. She had a glow in her face during her aging years.)
During the of Emergency years 1975-77, when she had established her authoritarian rule, Indira Gandhi had been described by a foreign journalist as "the only 'man' in a cabinet of old women".
TAIL PIECE 2:
You know you are getting bald when it takes longer and longer to wash your face!
Addendum II - Doosri Sita or The Modern Day Rapunzel
The Times of India of 09.12.2011 carries a photograph showing the 8.3 feet long hair of Ni Limmei of China. She stands on a chair while her neighbours comb her hair.
The Odia newspaper The Sambad of the 13th Dec. carries another photo of Ni Limmei standing on her balcony and combing her 2.53 meter long, and still growing, hair cascading down to the lower floor of the building. The paper adds that her compatriot Zai Kiuping holds the world record of having 5.627 meter long hair recognised by Guinness Book of World Records in 2004.