Sunday, August 1, 2010

A New Phase In Life For Mummy, Age 93

You've met Mummy before.

At 93, she is the matriarch of our family - its oldest living member and one of the most respected and admired women I have ever known. We all stand in awe of her discipline, her integrity and her astonishing energy. Even now, at this age, she teaches neighborhood children for five hours a day and is better informed about what goes on in their classrooms than they are themselves.

She is progressive in her thinking, keenly interested in politics and current affairs and an avid reader of biographies, fiction, history and poetry. She stays in touch with everyone by phone and by mail, remembers every detail about every relative's life, keeps track of our household accounts and reminds us of all our appointments and due dates.

But she IS 93. Her joints aren't as supple as they once were and some of her daily routines have now become difficult and even a burden. Her hair, for one. As modern as she is, where her hair is concerned, Mummy has always been traditional. After her ceremonial mundan at the age of two, when all her hair was shaved off, she has never had a hair cut. Never. Her beautiful white locks fell below her waist - thick and glossy and constantly in need of washing, drying, combing and braiding.

Over the last ten years, she's found it harder and harder to accomplish and for the past year, she's actually had to resort to asking for help, at least with the combing and braiding. Not her style. Mummy is the epitome of the independent woman and always has been. So an idea that first occurred to her ten years ago kept growing stronger: Why not just get it cut off?

But it's not as easy as it sounds, for a traditional Indian woman, however progressive. What would people think? What would people say? Short hair in India is associated with a certain type of woman: fast, maybe even loose; one who doesn't care two hoots what people think or what they have to say.

For a woman of Mummy's age, the idea itself was shocking: just trying to imagine herself without her hair was impossible. And yet the idea persisted. The dream of a quick shampoo, hair drying in minutes rather than hours, a casual running through of the comb  . . . tempting.

And then there were THE INSPIRATIONS:

Mummy has a niece whose hair style she has long admired - Pravar, who is 20 years younger, and who decided to get her own hair cut one day without telling anyone of her decision because, she said, she knew everyone would have an opinion and the only one she really cared about was hers. Another woman in the in the US, almost her age, had done it and then right here in Dehradun, one of our neighbors took the plunge. If they could all do it, Mummy reasoned, why can't I?

 But the real inspiration came when Nutan (God's Elder sister) arrived. Do not dare to have a dream when Nutan is around. She will make it her life's work to fulfill it. She knew that Mummy really did want to cut her hair, she knew she lacked the courage to do it on her own and she knew that she really wanted to be pushed.

So even though it was raining torrentially  that day, she forced me to go to a local beauty parlor and arrange for a guy to come to our house that evening. Then she went out and bought several kilos of mithai so that we could celebrate the way we would for a mundan.

When the great moment finally arrived, Mummy was reluctant, and less than pleased.

And the cut, when it came, was abrupt even for us - it was good Mummy couldn't see it happen:

 But everyone gathered close to reassure and cheer her on:

Except for Masiji, who thoroughly disapproved and tried to talk her out of it right till the last moment:

Nadim worked hard to give her just the right style: elegant, subtle, and easy to maintain.

And when it was finally finished, even Mummy had to admit that she liked the new sleek look.

and with turning back no longer an option, she happily had her celebratory mithai and blamed it all on her stubborn daughters.

1 comment:

chicu said...

love the tell mummyji she looks great!
Am impressed by Nutan's intuitive knowing of when a push is required, of what a person really wants vs. what a persons says s/he wants. Sadly, that is something I am a long way away from knowing