|The Japanese Fringe Cut|
My alert mother would see to it that the army barber would come over to learn his trade on my poor head. The guy would place a tiny beret on top and go hell for leather at the exposed hair and skin.After a few nicks and cuts he would fish out a mini lawn mower and let it run feints and circles on the sides and the back of my poor head, to leave behind a prickly green field. Oh yes, my haircuts were a precursor to the present day green field projects.
My mom would chose that exact moment when he prepared to lift the beret, and force him to cut short the remaining hair. Post haircut, I never failed to resemble a moron with a foolish grin. A moron with an intelligent forehead and nothing to show for it on top. My Mom was thorough in her demolition jobs and was an expert at selecting her minions who would rush to do her bidding. Even my old man dared not intervene.
My brothers had lank straight hair and it would fall over their foreheads and cover at least one eye. In contrast I had a broad, sloping forehead. They used to smirk and I used to sulk.
Whatever I tried , it was impossible to straighten those few stubborn curly strands, that seemed to have a life of their own. After hours of combing them down to a shiny, straight black mop I'd have just stepped out. On checking my face at a shiny surface or a mirror, I'd freeze mid-step, for the insouciant wave would have stood up to expose scalp underneath.
In my early teens I decided to take action to straighten out my hair, literally speaking. Consulting Mom was out of question and I dared not approach my brothers who derived wicked pleasure in making fun of my hair. I approached my milk vendor who had straight, black hair and yellow teeth. This guy took me under his wing and told me what to do.
When I was ready , I started but instead of taking it step by step I wanted to do it all. How I yearned to strike a Rajanikant-like pose with straight black hair, in front of my chief tormentors, with a wavy mop to one side of the forehead.
First thing in the morning, I applied fresh lime juice to my scalp and massaged it in, thoroughly. That is when the nose started to twitch. But unmindful of the impending disaster, I entered the kitchen like a thief, to locate castor oil. The viscous oil, I applied liberally and carefully on my unruly mop. I waited 45 minutes instead of the 5 minutes my milkman had advised, not realizing in my enthusiasm that my nose had started running and I had to continually keep sniffling to keep the snot from running down to my mouth. I hate to admit it now but my extra long tongue(I can touch the tip of my nose with that thinggy, you know) was guilty of a few quick, inadvertent licks. The taste of lemon, yoghurt, castor oil and good old fashioned snot was not bad, in fact quite tangy. I never disclosed this new taste to anyone, until now. I was dignified then, as any self respecting 13 year old, would be. Now I am shameless.
Next, I tip-toed silently to the fridge and took out the frozen dahi(curd, yoghurt). I scooped out a dollop and dumped it on my slick and wet head. It felt very cold but when I applied my comb on the hair, the hair obeyed for once. Total surrender without a fight. Round one to me, I crowed and moved into the decisive phase.With a few deft strokes of the comb, I slicked down my hair and and was proud that I had finally achieved the well-oiled, sleeked down look of the Italian mafiosi gangster. Only the broad forehead seemed to vehemently announce to the world that this guy is an elderly gangster, at best. Obviously, to enhance the results I allowed the cocktail to do its work on my scalp in its own time.
My eyes became red as tears started flowing. I started feeling feverish and my throat was beginning to ache as I was now coughing and sneezing almost non stop. I realized something was seriously wrong and I called out to my mother.
Mom walked into the kitchen and was immediately concerned. She rushed to help me as she sensed something was wrong but she slipped on the concocted spillage, and fell on the floor.
She cried out in pain as she landed on her butt. Like a mentally retarded moron, I laughed. She heard my nervous titter and went on the rampage.She went down looking every bit the concerned Mom but came up like a wounded gorilla. Let me tell you, a wounded gorilla is no match for the mother of an awkward teenager. I had nowhere to hide. She forgot all about her lovely innocent son and proceeded to wallop me mercilessly, with whatever she could lay her hands on. After thrashing me to her heart's content, she dragged me by the ears and slammed me on the bathroom floor. I was left there snivelling and fighting the urge to take another lick at the unending river of snot, as she proceeded to heat the water. I took bath and shampooed my hair to remove all the muck. I was down with cold and fever for the better part of a week before I made a spectacular recovery. That was due to an accidental glance I had, of my hair in the mirror. It looked so shiny and straight, so soft and manageable, almost like that of a Japanese teenager. I wished to continue with my trichological experiments but had absolutely no stomach for the cold and fever or the sneezing and coughing, that would surely follow. Occasionally I tried eggs and yoghurt to get the cool straight look. But the stench was unbearable and the dexterity with which people jumped out of the way, particularly young girls, convinced me to abandon the experiments.
That was also the last I saw of the poor milk vendor as he came to know my mother was gunning for him with her... who else, but the moronic army barbers. She had taken a vow to tonsure his head for having dared to misguide her innocent son.The poor guy did not mind the haircut but he remembered and dreaded the look of sheer animalistic enthusiasm those miserable misfits displayed each time they were let free to demolish my sparse mane. When I look at the peacefully relaxed expression on the face of my diminutive mother, in her twilight years, I marvel at her strength and character. How else could she have brought up three unruly boys, perennially in and out of trouble? What about the glorious mane sported by my chief tormentors, my brothres? One is left with wisps of hair on the sides and other is having coarse hair thanks to uncontrolled coloring and dyeing.
Anyway, when I run my fingers through my hair and look into the mirror I see naturally curled hair, which is thick enough and dark enough to make me proud. Every now and then I think of growing it long and straightening it, but I am scared of losing a single precious strand in case the chemical that may be used do not take kindly to my stubborn hair.