19 March 2009

Hair, Hair and Hairs

I had published this post in my personal blog, sometimes - 2, thinking it a bit too light for this blog. However a couple of readers of both blogs have suggested that my Khalistani readers might also enjoy it.

It has been suggested that it might even give nonSikhs a little insight into our attitude about hair. I don't know about that. This is just my experiences and my thoughts. Anyway, after dead children in Gaza, murdered girl-foetuses in Punjab (and elsewhere) and all that is wrong in India, maybe we Khalistanis need a little relaxation..

So here goes:

My husband is again annoyed at all the money I spend on my hair. I think this is normal. Women do tend to spend a lot of money on their hair.

I was discussing this with a friend online. What are the things most women do to their hair? Straightening, I mean, relaxing, perming, weaves, braids, extensions, all kinds of styling and, of course, cuts.

She said that she spends about $100.00 a month at the salon, in addition to home care products, such as shampoo, conditioner, gels, mousse, sprays and a weekly deep conditioner. That can easily add up to another $50.00 per month. Then there are brushes, combs, ties, and ornaments. I am going to disregard them, as I have no way to approximate that.

My expenses are somewhat less. In twenty years of marriage, I have been to a salon - not even one time. Wait, I was in a salon once. I'll tell about that later. I have never used or paid for the services of a salon even once. Well, once...I'll tell that story, too..

Given those figures, the average American woman would have spent about $36,000.00 over twenty years.

My expenses are somewhat less. I buy only three products for my hair: shampoo, conditioner and hair oil. Although I refuse to use that hair garbage from the dollar store - it makes my hair, which is very dry, break off and my scalp itch - I do not use the expensive salon items. I buy what is on sale at the local grocery/drug store. Shampoo and conditioner cost about $7.00 each for a bottle. One bottle will last me about a month. Hair oil, even imported from India is not expensive. The kind I usually use costs about $6.00 a bottle and lasts a couple of months. But let's say, I use a bottle a month. That all adds up to to $20.00 per month. Over twenty years, that adds up to a grand total of $4,800.

That means I have saved us about $31,200 over the twenty years of our marriage. I'd say I'm quite a bargain!

About that trip to the salon. A friend asked me to meet her there. With some misgivings, I agreed. I do not think any keshdhari Sikh could possibly feel comfortable in such a place. (For my nonSikh readers, being keshdhari means following the distinctively Sikh practice of leaving the hair unshorn and in its natural state.)

I am keshdhari. Going to a hair salon felt a little like going to a brothel. Interesting, a bit disgusting, quite daring and very uncomfortable. I was very much out of place, rather like a lioness at a dog show.

I first noticed the smell. A hair salon smells a bit like a chemistry lab without fume hoods. Ammonia seemed to predominate, along with some smells I couldn't identify. Someone had lit some incense, I suppose to cover up the noxious odours. It didn't work. Both my nostrils and my eyes were assaulted and I felt vaguely sick to my stomach.

The sights that met my eyes were a bit shocking. I mean, I know what goes on in these places, but to actually witness it! Here were all these women, all seemingly having a good time, mutilating their hair in various ways with these toxic chemicals. I could almost hear their tortured hairs screaming out in agony. And on the floor lay strands and strings of amputated hairs of all sorts of colours, some natural, most dyed. All dead.

My friend was in another room, but the receptionist recognised her name when I asked her. I left a note asking her to meet me at a near-by coffee shop and got out of that chamber of horrors. That was maybe 15 years ago; I have not been in one since.

I will be honest. Many years ago, while married to Mani, I did go to a hair salon for a service. I took it into my head that I wanted to get my hair professionally conditioned. I think mostly I was curious at exactly what went on in there. I found out.

I explained that I just wanted a deep conditioning. As this was in Montreal, of course it was all in French. I'll spare you and write in English. The young woman who was to serve me had bright blonde hair of an improbable shade puffed around her face to make her head look very round. She approached me. saw my neat bun and reached up to take out my kangha. I let out a yelp and fastened it to a sort of string around my neck. Jeanette - I don't remember her name, but that seems appropriate - loosened my hair which fell and fell and fell. She actually let out a little gasp and said she'd never seen such long hair. There was no approval in her voice; in fact her tone was accusatory. She picked up the ends of it and with several hmm, hmm, hmms, examined them closely "Virgin hair," she murmured.. "You have split ends. I'll have to trim them off before it can be properly conditioned."

"You'll do no such thing. Cut a single hair and I'll have your," I caught my breath and choked back the obscenity that had been on my lips, "cosmetology licence."

"Do you belong to some weird religious cult or something that won't let women cut their hair?"

"Or something," I growled. "And men don't cut their hair either."

"Well, you should break free and become your own woman." She picked up her scissors. "Long hair is really not becoming on you with that long neck. You have such a high forehead, you really need some cute bangs. You really need a sexy new hair style. Let me help you get free from all " - she held up my precious kesh - "this."

I admit that I sprang out of the chair and got out of there fast. I suppose she still thinks that I came from some strange cult and had inadvertently wandered into the Twentieth Century.

After that I conditioned my own hair - or rather Mani and I did each other's hair, which was not only safer, but also a lot more pleasant.

I have one more thought about long hair. I once watched on The Oprah Winfrey Show, an episode that greatly disturbed me. A bunch of women - and one man - with very long hair were to get makeovers. The main point was to cut off that awful, old-fashioned, ugly, long hair. Give these people a modern, "sexy" look. I admit they did look very different, but BETTER? Not in my opinion. I had the same reaction I have when someone suggests I'd look better if I wore make-up. I always respond,"Better? No, just different." The man went from a strong, masculine man with a full beard and mustache, and hair as long as - although not as healthy - as a keshdhari Sikh to a somewhat girlish metrosexual. I did not like at all.

At least the shorn hair was donated to Locks of Love, a charity that makes human hair wigs for children who have lost their hair, usually as the result of cancer treatments. A worthy cause.

Now, in case you are thinking that these Sikhs are a bit daft with this whole hair thing, allow me a brief explanation. We believe that our Creator knew what it was doing when it made us and we couldn't be more perfectly made. We have hair for a reason, in fact, several practical reasons which I am not going into right now. Even if we could find no practical reason for hair, the fact is that Akaal Purakh (God) gave us a gift of our hair and it is for us to gratefully accept and cherish this gift. (Of course, there's more to it than that, but I think that'll be enough for a start, eh?)

If we still seem a bit daft to you, that's OK. We don't mind. Most of us anyway.



  1. Of course, I support entirely your decision not to cut your hair, but I don't quite understand why it should not be trimmed (again, not the same as suggesting that I disapprove - it's your business, not mine, for one thing, and I respect you and your religion). God-given indeed, but so are nails and I suppose you trim your nails?

    Just out of interest, is it permitted that children with protruding teeth have them straightened, or are other procedures allowed that blur the lines between medical and cosmetic (repairing a cleft palate, for example, being on one side of the line and having laser treatment on your eyes being the other - not referring to nose jobs etc)?

  2. Dear Z Ji - The main reason I personally don't cut my hair is that it is asked of me by my Guru; other reasons are secondary. He asks me to keep all my hairs intact and unshorn, hence no trimming.

    In practical matters, most decisions are left up to the individual. I would think that if a physical difference from the norm was to cause an individual undue problems, most parents would opt to get it "fixed." There are valid medical reasons for repair a cleft palate or protruding/crooked teeth as well as lazar surgery on the eyes that go beyond cosmetic. I believe purely cosmetic surgery violates the princples of Sikhi, but we Sikhs tend to be a contentious lot. I am sure there are those who disagree with me.
    (BTW, one of my nephews had a nasal condition that necessitated a "nose job," which he got without blinking.

    The hair and nails thing is a common question. Here is an article which explains the difference.

    Hair vs. Nails
    It is often argued that hair and nails are similar, and a question frequently asked: "If we should not cut our hair, then why do we cut our nails?" But even a superficial study of the two shows them to be extremely different from each other. Whereas the hair grows from a tubular pit, the hair follicle, formed by sinking in of the most actively dividing layer of the skin, i.e., stratum germinativum, into the lower dermis, the nails are only modifications of the upper dead layers of the skin, i.e. stratum corneum. Further, the base of every follicle bulges out forming an inverted cup, which receives blood capillaries for nourishment and nerve fibers that make the hair sensitive to contact. An oil gland, known as sebaceous gland, opens into every hair follicle, the secretion of which lubricates the hair. A muscle is also attacked to the base of every hair for bringing about movement. Pigments are added to the shaft of the hair as it grows. None of these features is associated with nails.

    Structurally also hair is extremely strong, and resists breaking due to its elasticity and flexibility. Hair is as strong as steel, if we compare the two of the same diameter. Nails, on the other hand, are very brittle and rigid, breaking off easily. Hair number in thousands, thereby increasing the surface area, as if to meet a specific requirement. Nails number only twenty.

    The differences between the two do not end with the structural features. Even the body's response towards the two is totally different. Our body, throughout life, tries to maintain a particular length of hair, and if cut anywhere along the length, responds by growing them again to the specific length. It clearly indicates the link of the body with the hair all along its length.

    The body shows no such response to the nails, which grow from birth to death at the same rate, irrespective of whether cut or not. As has been mentioned earlier, even the shafts of hair, like any other living organ of the body, respond to ageing (in their length, density of growth, graying, etc.) and condition of health is reflected in the person's hair (in their lustre, shine, etc.), whereas from the dead part of the nail, one can infer no such thing.

    Practically also, hair do not interfere in any daily activity, whereas it is impossible to function at all with long nails. And even if not cut, nails generally fall off of their own easily; rather it takes great effort to maintain them, even up to a short length. In contrast to the long list of the functions of hair, only one function can be attributed to nails - that is, protection of the tips of digits.

    taken from: http://sikhee.com/literature.html

  3. Locks of Love and Wigs for Kids, wrote many news stories beging people to stop sending worthless mountains of hair and to donate money instead. Baisicaly people donate hair to feel like they are generaous when it costs them nothing. But these charities have to waste 99% of the donated hair at great expense.

    Also the charities do steal proceeeds from selling some hair to china.

  4. Anonymous ji,

    Thank you for the information. My hair are intact and will stay that way.



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