Holi is coming up — the festival when people throw powdered colours and water balloons (ouch) on each other to celebrate the onset of spring. For me, though, colour had another hue this year.
I’m going grey in the head. On the head. What started a couple of years ago has now become a sizeable amount of grey, peeking out of the brownish black of the rest of my hair. So far, the only people who’ve had an issue with this are my various hairdressers. Every time I get a hair cut or a blow dry or a head massage, I am asked, “Ma’am, you don’t dye your hair? Why not? They are quite grey now.” Sometimes, a senior hairdresser may ask, “May I ask why you don’t dye your hair?” To which, I sometimes say, “I don’t have the time to do it over and over every few months.” Sometimes, I say, “I don’t really care.” Which is the truth. It doesn’t matter to me.
We obviously live in an ageist society where any signs of growing old must be tackled aggressively and decisively. Finally, giving in to all the pressure to look youthful on the day of my second wedding, I too went and bought a box of L’Oreal hair dye. (In a typical instance of the Veblen effect, I searched for the most expensive item on the racks of Big Bazaar, assuming it to be of the best quality.) I stared at the box in wonder after coming home — am I finally doing this, I asked myself. I called my beautician home this Sunday, with full intention of getting my entire head coloured for the first time ever (I’ve had auburn or chestnut-brown highlights a couple of times, over a decade ago, so that doesn’t count). But she was late, and while waiting for her, I just happened to go through the instructions on the box, and saw something about doing an allergy test 48 hours in advance.
For some reason, that just set off massive alarm bells in me, and in that very instant, I decided that the health of my hair and scalp was worth more to me than the perception of youth. I don’t mind growing old. I have earned my greys well. I have lived a full life, like a rich tapestry of intense pain and pleasures, and if I am growing older, that isn’t a bad thing. It’s natural, I am normal, it is okay.
When the beautician landed up a few minutes later, I sheepishly told her I’d changed my mind. She didn’t laugh or coax me. She agreed that I was too young and too busy to actually do this on a regular basis. Instead, she gave me some tips to cover them up for parties (mascara, stupid) and some natural hair darkening solutions (amla, shikakai, tea) in case I was still interested. I sighed in relief — that was close.
During a later conversation with her as she did my manicure, I recalled turning vegetarian exactly 13 years ago this week. She asked me why I did it. I said it was a voice from within; I cannot explain it in words. And the same goes for my brush with artificial hair colour. In a tiny instant, I decided to go au naturel — it was a voice from within.
My Holi this year then is a celebration of colour — the blacks and greys included. Life is flush with all shades of God; each has its place, each comes with a story, with a purpose. Ignoring one or two just because they are unattractive or socially unacceptable only leaves us incomplete. To live wholly, we have to first accept the whole, and then cherish it.
Let me revel in every hue of this existence while I have it. Greys? Bring them on.