I am watching a YouTube video on how to make a chignon on my hair. My hair has reached a manageable length after nearly a year, following an impulsive haircut decision last year that reduced the length by half. I mimic the steps in the video for that effortless and perfect look. The model’s hair on the video looks shiny, silky and smooth. Mine is rough, frizzy, thick and unmanageable. But I am not going to give up…I cluck and start all over again.
When I was growing up, there was a whole big routine for hair care. South Indians usually have thick, black hair, and with the grooming and attention that our tresses received as children, we went about our childhood with long braids. Our hair was oiled everyday with warm coconut oil, combed to a shine, parted and braided into two plaits, for school.
We sported some other fancy braids during holidays and festivals, when our braids were embellished with beautiful and fragrant strands of jasmine. Hairwash products were all homemade and herbal; fragrant powders infused with fragrant flowers and herbs, which fostered hair growth and conditioning. Hair cuts meant just a little bit of trimming at the edges, and no reduction in absolute hair length.
When my sisters and I became teenagers, we literally wanted to let our hair down, and begged our mom to allow us to get bangs on our foreheads. My mom frowned. That would reduce our hair volume, she said, which was the main argument for all hair-related requests anyway. Our Dad told mom that the hair would grow back and that we should be allowed to do it. My mom gave in reluctantly, but also us warned us that we had curly hair, and that the bangs would curl after our hair dried. We did not know about hair setting or ironing or hair sprays or anything at the time.
But, we brushed all that aside in the excitement of having been allowed to go to the hair salon. My sister and I grinned excitedly at each other, as the hairdresser went snip, snip, snap. We also exchanged mildly guilty looks, when we saw our long tresses forming patterns on the floor. Our mom saw our looks. She had a smile on her face and said, “It will grow back soon.” We came home with triumphant looks and showed them off to our grandma, aunt and dad.
The biggest challenge was when we had to get ready for school the next morning. Bangs, open hair, unkempt hair etc were simply not allowed in school. Hair had to be braided and all stray hair had to be pinned back.
This was a new, added morning chore. Armed with an army of hairpins, my sister and I proceeded to pin back all the hair, for some semblance of a well-groomed look. And this went on for a while.
Soon, our hair grew back, and had joined the other obediently long tresses on our heads. By that time, we were nose-deep into our college applications, hairstyling forgotten as studies and exams engulfed us.
Over the years, I have experimented with short hair, long hair, layering, colouring, streaking and what not. But my hair was able to withstand all these experiments only because of all that nurturing and oiling during childhood. And this is my constant refrain to my daughter – oil your hair, take care of it.
I come out of my reverie, and to the task of learning how to make a chignon with thick unmanageable hair. I repeat a few times, it is getting better. After some time I get another mirror to study the chignon. There is no finesse, stray hairs are all over. It looks like a nest. Later in the day, I look for more videos, easy videos for chignons, and the title of one of them gives me pause – How to make a messy chignon.
Ahhhh, that was a look, messy chignon. Maybe that’s what I was creating. Hmmm! Even the messy chignon on the video looks much better than my artwork. Sigh!