Sunday, August 25, 2013



 Does she or does’nt she …

When Clariol launched the first Hair color in the US in the 1950’s, coloring your hair was not something that normal girls did.

You were either a ‘fast’ type or a hooker who desperately wanted to be blonde and hence colored your hair. Girls from respectable families did not color their hair, until the legendary copywriter Shirley Polykoff coined this tagline

 Does she or does’nt she … 

It was a powerful tagline that made hair color not just an ‘ok’ thing for the ‘respectable’ girl to indulge but a statement that expressed your individuality by exercising your choice of what you wanted to look like.    

Years later L’oreal encroached into Clariol’s market share with their ‘Because I am worth it’ tagline.

 More than half a century has passed since then. Hair colors of various kinds and brands have exploded into the supermarket shelves and have grown into a multi billion dollar market for the cosmetic industry.

The dilemma that the average American girl faced in the 1950’s may seem silly to the modern American women. But if you were from the southern part of India especially from a family as conservative as ours, it is easy to empathise with the American woman of the 1950’s.  

Where I come from, it was not until long ago that  good girls from ‘respectable’ backgrounds  did not use cosmetics or go to beauty parlours, leave alone color their hair.

Vanity was something that the ‘fast’ types, read women who worked in the movies or those ‘North Indian’ types indulged in. ( We had our own definition of beauty that  included expensive silk and exhorbitant gold jewellery, that in our definition not qualify as Vanity .. and that is besides  the point)

Then things changed. We women, from the  ‘respectable’ backgrounds went out and got educated, got jobs, got fat salaries and got lured.  

Clariol and L’oreal saw the potential market in us.  They came down to where we were.

They are desperately trying to lure us even today because they believe ‘we are worth it’ .     

Here is my advice to them.  Persevere but do not expect great results.  

Because generations of cultural conditioning is’nt easy to break into.     

Let me tell you my story. A story that spans across two continents and over a few years.    

A few years ago, I glared at the lone strand of grey hair as I stood in front of the bathroom mirror brushing my teeth. I glared at it day after day until it became long enough to be noticed.  I plucked it and preserved it somewhere carefully much like the way little girls preserve their first milk teeth that falls out, until I compeletely forgot about it.

 Few months later, two strands of grey hair stared at me from the bathroom mirror while I was brushing my teeth. I plucked them again but this time, I flushed them out into the wash basin.   

Few months later, four strands of grey hair stared at me from the bathroom mirror while I was grumpily brushing my teeth. This time I discovered the law of grey hairs.

Plucking away your strands of grey will result in them coming back again in geometric progression much like what happens in a chain reaction. One strand of grey will turn into two, two into four, Four would turn into eight and then into sixteen and so on.

It is said that Grey hair, signifies wisdom and experience. Unfortunately it also announces the onset of middle age and declining youth.  That is the time you are torn between flaunting your wisdom and giving up your youth.

Everytime I shopped at the supermarket, I was tempted to pick up that hair color that claimed to effectively cover grey hair upto six weeks.

Does she … or does’nt she…

There is something very private about using hair dyes.

No one really tells you they ‘do’. 

It is probably rude to ask someone if they ‘do’.

But then when you hit a certain age or rather when the shades of grey start haunting you, one tends to look at all other women ( and men) of the same age and prepare a mental database of who probably does and who probably does’nt.

Everytime the hair color section at the supermarkets lured me, I resisted. 

‘I have just a few strands of grey’. 

‘May be an entire application would be such a waste of money.’,  I justified to myself.

 Years passed.  The voice of justification grew feeble.

The strands multiplied in geometric progression.

I reached out for the hair dye.

No one would really know… was what I thought.

But that was not true.  Every 6 weeks the roots showed up in pure grey. It was not long before I realized I was getting into a trap.

I decided to let go.  No more hair dyes. No more of those nasty chemicals over my head.

But it looked awkward. I came back to India and for a very different reason went into hiding for a while. That was then I switched over.

I switched over to using Henna. ( A herbal concoction that stains your hair and is found in abundance in India)  

My excuse is that, it is natural and does not color my hair permanently.

A shade of burgundy that the Henna gives is a partial excuse to cover up the grey.

Moreover it was now a 'cool' thing to color your hair.
(Albeit only among those Americans, English ( read blonde) and the 'north Indians' who do not oil their hair. Not in respectable families like ours , my grandmother would have said, had she been alive. May her soul rest in peace)    

 My sister who is a couple of years younger came visiting and asked me if I ‘Do’ …
She better be worried because she shares my genetic makeup.  
In our case I must say it runs in my father’s side of my family. My mother’s side is blessed with  jet black hair and they do not show strands of grey even when they are well into their 60’s.  

Contrastingly, an aunt from my father’s side of the family had grey hair when she got married at 19 years of age. Ever since i can remember,all my uncles and aunts from my father’s side of the family including my father have a good crop of fluffy grey hair that sets them apart from others.

It was a family get together. We were meeting up for breakfast at the hotel before heading to the temple where the family deity was being consecrated into a brand new temple premises. (Kumbabhishekam for the ones in the know-how. )

 Across the breakfast table sat my youngest uncle, also the loudest one in the family. He is known for lack of filters in his head which renders it unable for him to filter his thoughts before they escape from his tongue.

He gave me that fleeting glance that met my eyes for a microsecond and then went above it. 

 I could read his mind. For a brief moment he was thinking …

Does she … or does’nt she ?
Mmm… Hair color suits you well … he remarked loudly after his suspicions were confirmed.
I was embarrassed.

 Others at the breakfast table got their answer too.

I guess until then they were in that mode …

Does she … or Does’nt she ?


This post is a part of Write Over the Weekend, an initiative for Indian Bloggers by BlogAdda. We give out themes for creative writing each weekend for Indian bloggers.




Sunday, August 04, 2013

Those were the best days of my life

Those were the best days of my life.

Amma recalls her childhood. She was the first child born in the family. 
She was pampered, adored and indulged by her otherwise disciplinarian grandpa, grandma,  father, mother, uncles, aunts, servants and even a wet nurse when she was born. Ten years of wait filled with prayers and visits to various pilgrimage sites by her parents went into it. Precious child that she must have been, she got the best of toys, tHe best  of cookies and best of everything  that money could buy in a small indian village in the early 1950s. When electricity and photography were still rare in rural India,  she was the most photographed child of those days in Thanjavur or possibly in all of India.
( some photographs which have survived  will be uploaded soon )

Amma celebrated her sixtieth birthday sometime back. She was asked this question by her children that would come up as a blog prompt prodding her daughter to write a blog about it.!!!
Sixty years on she still feels her childhood we're the best days of her life.
Not many girl children got that privilege in her days and even today.

It is besides the point that when she is in one of her post menopausal  moods she laments that marriage, mother in law, husband, children , poor health ,heart attack and everything else took a toll on her and life has only been on a downward spiral from then on. 
In all fairness life has been a mixed bag for her. Like how it is for most people. 

 Her's was a typical life of women born in 1950s and 60s in India. 
Before you knew it, marriage and motherhood  just happened to you. 
Life went on depending on how well your marital  life shaped up. 
Self esteem was predominantly about how well you mother in law treated you. 
Money predominantly was about how well your husband's job or business shaped up.
Your own status in the society was about how well your children did at school, college and later in their jobs and marraiges.
You pretty much never had direct control over any of these matters and yet your existence , your self worth and happiness depended on how you shaped everyone else's life. 
No wonder the carefree days of childhood would, by default qualify as the best days of such lives.
it does not come as a surprise that  amma laments this so often about her childhood. 
That was probably the only time she had direct control over her own happiness and self worth. 

This weeks blogaddas wow prompt sent me reflecting. 
I started thinking about what to write. 
"What were the best days of my life?"
I ask myself sitting under the shade of a mango tree watching the sunset over the faraway hills on a sultry but calm and peaceful evening. 
I am on a vacation seeking solitude. 
Far away from the maddening crowd. But not too far away for me to submit my entry.
Thanks to My mObile service provider's  signal that reaches my cell phone even in this sparsely inhabited place. 
The reason I am here is precisely to reflect on them. 
The best days and the worst days of my life.
More about that on another blogg. ( I am much of a blogger on my smartphone. This is my first
attempt. Please fForgive the typos)

This blog post is a submission for wow (write over the weekend) on blogadda

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