On father’s day, I was on a memory trail about the incidences with my beloved Dad. There are so many noteworthy of but I came up with this rather amusing memory till date. Hope you have fun reading this!!
I have always wondered why should my emotions be so inextricably tied to my HAIR, I don’t know but it is a fact that a good haircut can uplift my spirits for a month, while a terrible one has left me in tears so many times.
And the reaction is instant. Serve me a bad meal and I can somehow suffer through it, making appreciative noises as I go. Take me out on the mother of all disaster shopping trips and I will still thank you for a lovely evening and promise to give you a company next time around. I am the master of the easy let-down. But cut my hair in a way I don’t approve, and my reaction to it is completely physical. My face gets red, my throat chokes up, tears flood my eyes and I start breathing heavily . It’s always been this way. 😦
When I was seven, my mother persuaded me to get a “bob-cut”. Unfortunately, this turned out to be the code for what you might recognize today as the ala Mandira-Bedi-haircut. That was a time when there was just no access to a talented hairstylist. Short and extremely unfussy, was IN then and my in-all-directions-heading-curls had to be toned down because they warranted a hell lot of attention. The only people who ever complimented me on the results of that disastrous trip to the salon where my mother, the nice Chinese lady who had followed my mother’s instructions against her own better judgment, and a teacher of mine who sported that exact same boxy cut.
I never appreciated looking like a middle aged schoolteacher whilst still in the second grade. I ended up throwing a temper tantrum in the middle of the salon, whereupon my mother ordered an emergency pedicure for herself and banished me to the reception area where I spent the next forty five minutes cooling my heels, seething in fury, and frightening the rest of the clientele with my panting rage while tugging fiercely at my hair in an effort to make it come out of my head a little faster. 😐
Before you think I was some kind of special-needs-child, the alarmed receptionist definitely thought so. I should say that I already knew that particular effort wasn’t going to work. It was just another example of my once-ungovernable temper driving me to do things that were the limits of my stupidity. 😐
But the roots of my hair-related rage go back a long way. It all started, I suppose, when my Ajji decided that the time had come to get the baby shiny-cover should be shaved off my head. I rewarded her by screaming like anything. And hence the bowl of black noodle-like-hair grew and grew, curling into loose ringlets that charmed my mother so much, she forgot I was a baby and not her doll. 🙂
I don’t know why she stuck my dad with the job though. Maybe she felt it would be a waste of money to take me with her to the ladies salon where they had things like proper lighting? Maybe my dad offered like the responsible parent he is? Who knows! But I ended up accompanying my dad to the barbershop he frequented. My first memory of getting a haircut is of a smiling man with a neat beard and Daddy sitting next to me, telling me “Not To Move An Inch”. To this day, I can’t relax and get all chatty with a hairstylist because my entire brain is hardwired with my father’s voice telling me “Not To Move An Inch”. And so I won’t by God!
Since my dad is a generous specie (unlike mom) our routine was first the haircut and next came the ice cream. In my memory, the barbershop had blue colored walls, the color of a government office. The ice cream shop, on the other hand, resembled an Old West Saloon, complete with wood paneling and rustic furniture as well as a noisy air conditioner at Churchgate called as Rustoms. And for some reason this was next to the petrol pump. Because that is a perfectly logical place to build an eatery. Chocolate ice cream with carbon monoxide topping. Yummmmmmmmmzzzzzzzzzz!!!! 😛
I remember the inside of this fine establishment as a crowded and rather dingy place, which means it must have been tiny indeed given my toddler’s perspective. Anyway, as soon as we got in the door, Dad would head straight for the glass counter and ask me for my preference. I was three, my nose barely reached the part where the metal ended and the glass began. I couldn’t see a thing but I did enjoy breathing on the tiny bit of cool glass that my face could reach, and looking thoughtful. Eventually, I would place my order Strawberry!!! And Dad would place his Vanilla!!! If he was feeling adventurous, he would switch it up to chocolate but I think that only happened once or something.
I don’t even know how we decided I was a strawberry aficionado. For all I know, my dad marched in there and growled, “What do little girls like to eat?” At which point the terrified man behind the counter probably said, “Strawberry!” because it was all pink and girly and he was afraid to say he didn’t know. Voila! I liked strawberry. And since it never occurred to Dad to pick me up and show me the various options, I didn’t even know there were more than three flavors of ice cream until I was about 14, which is when I learned about the glories of the mighty pistachio. 😀
That was the summer when my second cousin came back from Dubai and showed us a fancy parlor that both manufactured and sold ice cream that you could order and consume curbside in the luxury of your very own car. My auntie took me there one night and introduced me to my first falooda. And my life was never the same again. 😀 But that is to fast forward. Back in our Old West Ice Cream Parlor, we were being served ice cream. Not scoops or scones, but slabs of it. There’s a small part of me that still thinks of waffle cones as exotic because my lizard brain thinks ice cream is naturally served as slabs on cheap white porcelain plates. Good times though!
We would sit there solemnly consuming our ice cream, until Dad had scraped his plate clean and I was still sitting there with half of mine on my plate. My mother was bringing me up to share so I always asked him if he’d like some of mine. My father, meanwhile, was bringing me up to not share eatables with him so he always refused. He would then sit in silence, watching me make heroic attempts to finish the entire plate before taking pity on me when I was about three-quarters through and proposing we leave. It was powerful magic, for an undemonstrative man and his willful daughter.
And like all magic, it was contained to that moment in time. These days, I tell my dad he should get a pedicure and take him out for coffee. That is our thing now, I push him to try and move an inch while he lets me order unfamiliar items off the menu. It’s a different kind of magic but one thing remains the same: we have a standing date anytime either one of us cuts our hair.