It must be the big ‘S’ word – ‘Stress’ or a spike in saline content in water or raging hormones that are depriving scores of young and middle aged men of their lustrous locks. The adage ‘men get naughty at forty’ is outdated. The roving eye comes in much earlier! More men are getting bald at forty, if not earlier. With celebrities going in for hair transplants and artificial means to cover their pate and the ‘hair industry’ splurging on ‘Before & After’ advertisements, is it any wonder that the average Joe out there wants to mask reality? The recent tragic demise of a young Chennai medical student, caused by a hair transplant gone wrong is a grim reminder of the risks associated with such procedures. What is more alarming is the mounting societal pressure on balding men to hide their patches and receding hairlines.
Hair transplants are touted as a more permanent, albeit risky ‘solution’ to baldness. Then there are imported ‘wigs’ pasted on the scalp every month when the customer goes for ‘servicing’. In the interim period, the users can reportedly swim, jump, go out para-sailing in a storm and do whatever they please. No restrictions. The ‘herbal’ shampoos and oils that promise a thick mop of hair are largely a sham. I remember a tv commercial of an oil that showed hair sprouting even from your palm because it was poured there! ‘Oil’s’ well that doesn’t end well! What isn’t too misleading is a ‘hair re-growth’ potion called ‘minoxidil’. An anti-hypertensive drug, it was found that a side effect was hair growth. So some smart whiz kid decided to market it as a hair re-growth therapy. The catch here is its zero residual effect. The day you stop using it, you will be back to your bald patch. There are also side effects, as it is, after all, a drug meant to lower blood pressure. Doctors warn us that topical application of a lotion or cream can be equally harmful as the chemicals enter our blood stream through the pores or follicles.
There was a time when anorexia was the in-thing. This triggered the size zero fad. In hot pursuit was its country cousin – bulimia. Thunder thighs and that well endowed look had its sway. The six pack was the next fashion statement. The only look that has endured and requires no effort for a rice staple region is the paunch. And where’s there’s a paunch, there will always be liposuction and ‘wonder pills’ to lose flabin 30 days. Where there are crow lines and sagging skin, there’s botox. People are willing to blow up any mount of money on such short-cuts to look good. Few want to age gracefully. I have often wondered why the bald look hasn’t become fashionable so far. Not even after Andre Agassi? The iconic tennis champion once admitted that his wig cost him a French Open. Before his chrome dome look, Agassi explained how he would pray not to win a match but for the twenty odd clips holding his wig to stay in place! And in his own words: “Every morning I would get up and find another piece of my identity on the pillow, in the wash basin, down the plughole.” I guess our very own Virender Sehwag and Harsha Bhogle and some very big names in Bollywood, haven’t really helped the cause. Thank God at least for some Chennai based personalities like Satish Jupiter who wear their common sense on their scalp.
There have been some top class and extremely meaningful campaigns along the lines of ‘Dark Is Beautiful’ with its own ambassadors like movie star Nandita Das (I’m not going to use the cliche ‘dusky beauty’) Why can’t we have a similar “Bald Is Smart’ or ‘What’s Inside Matters More’ movement to end this fixation (God, pun unintended!) ? I remember actor Kamal Haasan once telling me on the sidelines of an interview, that one can do so much with the body and that hair should be the least of our worries, not to speak of priorities. The Dasavatharam hero knows best and is someone I have always respected for his original thinking and candour. But try posting a status update on the social media about the ugly face of the beauty industry and you will be flooded with ‘easier said than done’ comments. Indeed, it’s easier for a two wheeler rider to place a helmet on the petrol tank than go through a brain surgery because helmets cause hair loss and accidents can cause only head injuries, you see. It’s easier to sport artificial goldie locks than exercise and build muscles and gift your family your own good health. It’s easier to cough up lakhs on some synthetic mop which entails monthly ‘maintenance’ than open a fixed deposit or some savings scheme for the future of your children. It’s easier to flaunt a fake appearance and pose for page 3 shutterbugs or those mandatory selfies on facebook than develop self-esteem.
Confidence stems from attitude. From achievement. From self worth. From values. Not from a hairy placebo. Character is your strength of mind. Not mane. Men of India, unite. You have nothing to lose but your strands.
(Sanjay Pinto is a Lawyer, Columnist, Political Commentator, Author, Public Speaker & Former Resident Editor – NDTV 24×7)