The mane event

Posted on June 14, 2015


Tired of the focus on unwearable gowns at Cannes and IIFA and elsewhere, we decide it’s time someone talks about men’s fashion.

But don’t worry. I’m not here to tell you what to wear. I’m here to talk about my bald spot, which I’ll refer to henceforth as Bora Bora. It seems an apt-enough name, given how we often resort to marine metaphors to describe the hair. Wavy tresses, we say. Or a hairline that’s receding, as if it were the tide. And what is a bald spot but an island of bare skin hemmed in by a sea of hair? The first time Bora Bora was sighted, it was the size of a 25-paise coin. At least, that’s what my friend told me. If you’re from another country, you may wonder why someone who carelessly tells you these soul-deflating things is considered a friend, but that’s what friends and relatives do in India. They tell you when they think you’ve put on weight, or are looking puffy-eyed. Or when they catch a glimpse of Bora Bora.

I was in my early twenties then, and with this announcement, my life changed forever. They keep making movies about men who are obsessed with careers or making money or unattainable women. That’s not a patch on the obsession a balding man has with his mirror. Two mirrors, actually. One to stand in front of, and one to hold in the hand angled above the head. And slowly I watched Bora Bora expanding. It became a 50-paise coin. A rupee. And then the Indian mint could no longer help. In a few years, I was facing a point where a FedEx plane would crash on my head and leave Tom Hanks with only a volleyball for company. Yes, hair loss and hyperbole are brothers-in- arms. Or whatever the naval equivalent is.

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Someone said rubbing the scalp would help. Someone else recommended Rogaine. Short of sprinkling powdered rhino horn on my curd rice, I experimented with all kinds of additives in my diet. I think I realised things were getting out of hand when I found myself breaking an egg on my head – the yolk was the A-bomb that was supposed to annihilate Bora Bora, but all I ended up with was a bad smell and the relief that the Chennai heat hadn’t baked my scalp into an omelette.

And all the while, I went through high drama. Walking into a room was enough to make me imagine everyone was making a beeline for Bora Bora. You take care to avoid standing beneath lights. You begin to pay attention to hair-weaving ads. You begin to realise it’s you they’re referring to when you hear “Uncle!” You begin to watch a lot of Vin Diesel and Jason Statham movies. You begin to wish you were Sikh. You discover the phrase “comb over.” You begin to pun on Shakespeare, toupee or not toupee, and discover that it sounds like you’re suffering from incontinence. You wonder if you should buy a motorcycle just so that you can wear a helmet. You begin to look at the sky and say: “Why me?”

For relief, I’d laugh at fellow-sufferers. At the man who carefully combs his three strands of hair over a denuded scalp. At the man who stops getting a haircut and rearranges the excess growth over the archipelagos on his head – it’s like origami with hair. At the man who gets rid of the side parting and begins to sweep his hair upwards, so the last few strands cascade over Bora Bora. At the man having a drink at the bar, never removing his Yankees baseball cap.

And then, one day, I discovered a cure. I got myself a trimmer and off it all went. Bora Bora was gone. Not entirely. Even today, it resurfaces like a whale when I go without trimming for a few days. But the key is to make it a habit. Like shaving. It’s no longer something that causes anxiety. It’s a look. Or maybe after many years of obsessing about it, you just learnt to stop worrying and love the baldness. You are Vin Diesel. You are Jason Statham. I’m calling it masculinism. Let’s go burn some wigs.

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Posted in: Humour, Personal, Society