Rapun-Gelled

A very hairy affair

When I was a child, I was famously known as the centre-shock kid in school. No, not because I had a shocking personality or because I was the centre of attention. If anything, I was the centre of my own universe. I was called the centre shock kid when I was in class 7 because my hair looked like it had received a high voltage shock, see picture, so you know I’m being real about this.

It all started with a hockey tournament. Hockey tournaments were notoriously famous for spreading lice (also lies but no one cared). All young girls would sit, sleep, eat, bathe in the same area — not the most hygienic way of living — but cohesive, nonetheless. I suppose they wanted a sense of camaraderie among the girls?

Women power for the win!

Well, for sure there were many ways I felt the “camaraderie”. I learnt my first legit curse word, learnt that being a rebel is cool, and that there were drugs that one could try and feel amazing about. I was now part of this big bad ass women hockey club — who talked about everything one shouldn’t.

Naturally, when the next tournament was scheduled — the biggest worry that my mother had was how to handle the mess that is LICE. The common response a parent would have is to nip the problem in the bud.

She took me to a parlour — probably my first visit to a parlour — and the most misleading trip ever. When the hair dresser saw my hair, which reached all the way to my lower back, she was over joyed.

She kept singing praises of how soft my hair was, how thick and lush and amazing it looked (that is the first and last time a parlour lady has complimented me — for anything). In the bargain, she got herself a nice wig and a fat amount, as fees, from the mother.

Thus began my walk of shame into the school corridors. Most of my classmates laughed at me. Thus began the tale of medusa aka centre shock.

When did all your hair problems begin?

Let us rewind to the very beginning of time. To my birth. The year 1992. India was just out of the hands of a closed economy giving way to globalisation. New products poured into the market, some, we had never heard of before.

In 1997, my mother must have bought our first Johnson and Johnson shampoo and she could not stop raving about it. From using home-made soap-nut and shikakai powder, making a shift to foamy, lathery shampoo was a welcome move in our family. No more tears. This marks the beginning of my hairy affair.

Cut back to centre-shock Aarti. Years of using shampoo had rendered my hair dry and extremely frizzy. Result, I became a common joke and talk of the town. But at least the lice threat was reduced.

I braved my way to meet the Hockey-mean-girls, only to be bullied and teased and when I thought life couldn’t get any worse, I was greeted with my fair share of lice problems post tournament.

Me on a good hair day

Ouch! These scars will last a lifetime

Several lifetimes actually.

Growing up was tough. Being one of the only two girls in class with curly hair, tougher, and being the only girl with Medusa hair, toughest.

My hair never grew back to the same length. Adolescence seemed to have been faster than my hair growth. I was still recovering from the centre shock trauma while girls in my class were discussing haircuts like: Fringes, Bob, Layers, Pixy, Wave, Step, etc. Sounds like a nice name for a girl band.
But for frizzy haired Aarti? Well, there was only one hair cut — no haircut ever.

Fast forward to college. Wow. I discovered curls could be beautiful. I discovered that curly hair could be long and left open? What sorcery is this? What magic are they using? What gel are they applying?

Come on! Step up

I decided it was time for me to show off my curls, just like the girls in Psychology Major. One fine day, Aarti from Econ woke up — to conquer the world with her curls. As I pulled away the scrunchy that was tightly bound multiple times to the end of my head — I also felt like half my head peeling off. But today was the day to be brave.

I felt empowered. I put on a big bright smile and decided to strike a pose in the mirror — with the hope that the same pose will stick all through the day (I did not attend any classes, so the “look” was only for my best friend — the dude whole sold chaat and street-food at the canteen).

I almost fainted looking into the mirror. All these years of praying that my hair grow longer did come true. However, I should have been a bit more pointed in my wishes. My hair grew longer and frizzier. Now, I did not look like medusa. She looked like an angel in front of me. I looked more like Hagrid from Harry Potter. Cute as a character, horrifying and mortifying as a real person. I ducked my head down in defeat, tied my hair and went to college.
The last thing I wanted was the canteen boy to fear me.

In the meanwhile, I tried gels, straighteners, creams, sprays, lotions, serums and a whole array of changing shampoos and conditioners, to tame the outer and inner beast. The inner beast was easy to pacify — all I had to do was look in the mirror for the outer beast to emerge. I would invariably transform into my inner Hagrid.

My hair felt more like the ‘before’ image for several beauty products.
Bottom line — I had internalised the fact that my hair could never be left open or tamed (just like how you want to tame wild animals or serial killers), unless subject to chemicals. Chemicals that could erode a layer of skin each time you open the bottle cap, creams that could be used for both your hair and for chemical warfare, or pressing my hair across a big block of hot “Iron” and other metals that could melt the table it is kept on.

Fast forward to Now.

Today, I feel like both Slash and Axl Rose from Guns and Roses. My hair has the bouncy curls of Slash and the calmness of Axel. It is electrifying, shocking and bountiful like Slash, and yet it has got a demure, domestic feel to it. I leave my hair open most of the time and I feel amazing about it.

What caused this change?

I want to say — I changed cities, changed attires, disguised myself into looking like a desi Rapunzel, got a nose job, eye job, hair job and cheek extensions, with a fake identity, a fake family and fake new friends.

But sadly, some wonderful Disney princess dreams never come true. (Shush! 10-year-old Aarti) I only changed one thing about my weekly hair washing ritual. I stopped using the array of products in my bathroom, adopted a semi-minimalistic lifestyle and started back to before it all began — shikakai powder, bioenzyme and soap-nut.

No, I do not use fancy gels anymore. I do not use serums that would drive me to the hospital — to sell my organs in exchange for them. My shampoo, conditioner, soap, face-wash, body gel, eye lid wash, pour cleanser, black-head bleacher all are the same.

Sounds counterintuitive?

Has it reeeeeally helped?

I don’t know. Why don’t you try it.

All I can say is that my hair feels better than what it was before.

PS: Here is how you can make bioenzyme at home

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