A messy chignon


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.

Image courtesy – Shutterstock.com

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!

Koalas on my handbag!


The morning is a whirlwind of activity. From classes to cleaning to cooking, the day has already descended into ‘crazy mode’ – like many other days that have preceded it. When I reach ‘Point frazzled’, the sun has crossed our balcony, bringing with it intense humidity. I feel sticky, as tendrils of my frizzy hair forge strong bonds with my sweaty neck. I know just what I want.

I head purposefully to my chest of drawers and pull open the drawer. I cluck in exasperation. I cannot find a single claw clip or clutcher clip. Not a single one! The hunt begins. I do use rubber bands, but they are not as effective as these claw clips.

I head straight to my daughter’s room, a labyrinth that I have been told not to navigate. But this is a pressing situation that allows for some rule-breaking. We have 4 long claw clips and 2 medium sized ones at home that my daughter and I share. From under the pile of books and papers and folders that jostle for space on my daughter’s table, I unearth 2 big ones. I sigh in relief.

I grab all my hair and twist it vigorously, I pin it with the long claw clip, every single loose hair forced into submission, piled on the top of my head in a grim-looking knot. I dare any of my curls to escape the clutches of my claw clip. I automatically feel energized, cool and ready to go on with my day. I continue my claw hunt. I find one behind my daughter’s mirror. That’s three. Where are the other three?

I know where they will be. I head to my handbag cupboard. I pull out the ones I have used recently, and yay! I find the remaining three, clinging like koala bears to the handles of my handbag, where most women keep them till they need them.

My claw clips are an integral part of my life, for they are easy to use, can help with styling, can serve as humidity- life savers and thus managed frazzled nerves.