Monday, February 23, 2009

The Haircut

I told Dilraj, who was scanning the Sunday newspaper supplements, to go and have a haircut. " No papa, I am growing my hair", he replied promptly without looking up. Growing his hair ? To what length ! I wondered and took another look at him. Some faces came to my mind like John Abraham or Dhoni. May be that he was inspired by one of them. So I decided to keep quiet. My mind took me back to my childhood days.

A sikh boy, I had very long hair, almost up to the waist level. I had grown up with my hair tied on top of the head, kept in place with the help of a white handkerchief (as some athletes and hockey players do). During the cultural functions in our boys' school, our maths teacher , who was also the organizer of such functions, invariably gave me the female roles, and I dare not disobey him because I was not very good in maths. So I had the distinction of having acted as mother, wife, bhabi, sister and so on.

As soon as I got the first signs of some beard on my chin, I, thankfully, stopped getting the female roles and the white handkerchief gave way to 'Patka' (Harbhajan style) . I started wearing turban when I entered the college. Although the turban suited me well, and my friends called me a smart sardar, yet, I always craved to keep short hair. I used to stand in front of the mirror and would cover my hair bun with my hand to assess as to how would I look with shorter hair.

One day I was on my way to the college along with my friends, all of whom had short hair. It was warm by Shimla standards. I annonced that I felt like having a haircut. They all looked at me in amazement but finding me serious, they approved my plan. I asked them to accompany me to 'Bright Hair Dressers", one of the best in Shimla at that time which was located right opposite the Scandal Point. ( and I did not know that this was going to be the second biggest scandal, at least for our family, the first one being Maharaja Patiala eloping with daughter of the then Viceroy to his palace at Chail, hence the name of the spot).

When I told the hairdresser that I needed a haircut he was dumbstruck for a few seconds, just examining me from top to bottom as if trying to establish the truthfulness of my statement. When I insisted, he made me sit in the chair, carefully took off my turban, opened and combed my long hair, once again confirmed my desire and then proceeded with his scissors. I told him to put the long tresses in a packet along with the turban, collected the same and proceeded to the college. I received various types of comments there, in particular the frowns from my sikh friends. However, I did not realize that I had done something very wrong until I reached home. My Mother nearly fainted when she opened the door to let me in. Within minutes our house was swarmed by sympathising neighbours, some of them consoling my mother and few others passing comments in my support. The congregation dispersed only when my father came home from office. His face looked so grave with anger that the gathering decided to leave rather than witness something unpleasant. His first question was that which girl had coaxed me to undertake this act of sacrilege. My mother even offered to leave home , I dont know for where.

I grew my hair again.

It was only ten years later, when I was undergoing the 'commando course' at Infantry School , Belgaum, that I took permission from my parents to keep short hair. I was finding it extremely difficult to maintain longer ones during the toughest training course of the Indian Army meant for all officers of the Infantry Regiment.

My wish was granted and they also agreed to my keeping short hair permanently thereafter.




This post also forms part of series on my life journey. To read all the posts in this series, please click here.


Inexplicably said...

:) You seem to have done it with tremendous ease ! I sill harbour guilt. I can't visit a gurudwara in case I cannot tie my hair so that they dont 'appear' to be cut ! I live with my confusions.

Balvinder Singh said...

C'mon you don't have to harbour any guilt or confusion over such petty things as short or long hair. These are mere inventions of the clergy who have to keep their shops running. The sikh gurus have called upon us in every shloka of Guru Granth Sahib to shun the false pretentions and affectations. There are a number of shlokas which even go against growing hair and those come from none other than the Tenth Guru Himself. Let some learned brethren interpret this shloka for me :- "Re Mann Aiso Kar Sanyaasa..... Jath kee Jataa (hair), Jog ke Majjan, Neim ke Nakkhan Badhao"
Or another one :- Teerath Koti Kiye Isnaan, Diye Bahu Daan Mahavrath Dhaare. Des Phiriyo kar Bhes Tapo Dhann, Kesh (hair) Dhare na Miley Har Piyaare."

Anonymous said...

But you looked great in turban - 1983

Mampi said...

I too, have some guilt. But then it is more because my parents/parents in law have never said anything amounting to disapproval. (their looks say it all though).
Guess we are, as sikh children, brought up with a huge respect for our hair. SO the guilt stays on. As for the clergy making us feel guilty, I care two hoots for them.
I would like to quote Gurdas Maan's song.
ਆਪਣੇ ਸਿਰ ਦੀ ਪੱਗ ਜਿਨ੍ਹਾਂ ਤੋਂ ਸਾਂਭੀ ਜਾਂਦੀ ਨਹੀਂ
ਬੁਰਾ ਮਨਾਉਂਦੇ ਓਹੀ ਬੀਬੀ ਸਿਰ ਤੋਂ ਨੰਗੀ ਦਾ ।
This is for all those hypocrites who have a big chasm between action and intention.
Loved your post. And I could understand the conflict in the mind of the hairdresser.

Balvinder Singh said...

Manpreet, thanks for vindication. And the words of Gurdas Mann hit the bull's eye. But for my family, this was the act of blasphemy. We were regarded a respectable sikh family in a small town like Simla so their anguish was justified. That was the very reason that i bowed to their wishes at the first instance. But they granted my wish ten years later though reluctantly.

Smitha said...

It must be extremely difficult to take such a step. I know friends who wanted to cut their hair but never did it because they parents felt really strongly about it. And then I think, as they grew older, they kind of accepted it.

The Bald Guy said...

Doesn't matter to me if you have short or long hair. What matters is that you've served in the army and done a great job for India. Parents will always be parents you know.

Balvinder Singh said...

Smitha, yes it was highly emotional issue because my parents had an image in that small town as a respectable sikh family and my getting a hair cut did hurt them and that is the reason why i grew hair gain that time, but slowly they acceded to my wish of keeping short hair.

Bald Guy, thanks, yes at the end of the day it is not long or short hair that matters more as against what one contributes to the country and the society as a whole in his life. But yes parents are parents and their sentiments have to be given due regards.

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Anonymous said...

balvinder , i have also cut my hair,
and the is haunting me,
living in fear, that something miserable will happen.

confused, lost !!

parents pressure, and
what about teachings of our gurus, they sacrifice there life for kesh??

Anonymous said...

Hello Sir,
good to read all this. Iam 21 years old guy, frm a sikh family where there is a lot of importance of keeping hair. I don't have much hair growth as my father also has almost a bald head. I have very light hairs which extend to little below my shoulders.
The problem that i face is from wearing turban. I am not able to tolerate it for more than two hours, as it severely pains in my ears. I have tried wearing it in a loose manner, but only a tightly tied turban looks good and your face looks confident.
and my ears pain like hell. I wanted to cut my hairs from quiet a long time, but i feel it is very difficult for me to face all my teachers and family members with my new look. All my school teachers, my college teachers, my acquaintances, my juniors who have loved me soo much, will gonna hate me. My parents will be hurt a lott..I feel like quitting this decision of cutting hairs, but again , everytime i wear turban, and everytime when it pains, i am not able to tolerate it. Specially in the hot weather, when u are out frm home for 9 hrs. Iam in a fix.

Frankly speaking, i have a very less beard(almost negligible) as compared to people of my age. And for a sikh, who doesnt have a beard to show, it is again very bad. I look soo young amongst my colleagues.
Iam soo confused, cant take a decision. I think, any religion is all about being true to people, sabda bhala karna, helping others, and doing good deeds. I dont noe what hairs have a role to play in. Please advise me.

Anonymous said...

So you mean to say Bhai Taru Singh was the clergy who wanted to keep his shop open ??

Ridiculous!!! Just blaming others for the lack of self confidence you had in your early times and now misguiding others and I AM SHOCKED YOU ARE QUOTING SRI GURU GRANTH SAHIB.. Please Sir put that down...And this is no censoring..Its misleading.

And since you are quoting Guru Sahib can you please explain what it means by
"Jab eh karat bipran ki reet main na karu inki parteet"

Balvinder Singh said...

Dear Mr. Anonymous, while i welcome your reaction to my post, let me humbly submit that at no stage of my life i felt lack of self confidence that you have mentioned in your comments. If you read my post again you will find that I had a fancy for keeping short hair, an option, which was denied to me as a Sikh boy as i had been brought up in an environment where it was considered sacrilege for a Sikh to cut his hair. Rather, i displayed enough confidence in making my own decision and not following the beaten track.

Bhai Taru Singh and other such martyrs sacrificed their lives while defending their own motherland fighting the foreign invaders who wanted all the non Muslims to convert to Islam. Those were different times when our country was being ruled by foreign forces. By clergy i meant the present day preachers who have interpreted the teachings of Guru Granth Saheb to their own advantage,

I have quoted two shlokas from Guru Granth Sahib which mention the words 'Jata' and 'Kesh' both of which mean long hair and further go on to say that by merely sporting long hair one does not attain God. I fail to understand that the same Guru Sahebaan, who in almost every shloka have called upon us to shun the path of pretensions and affectations, could have propagated the practice of wearing a few items on the body by its followers to prove as true disciples.

You have asked me the meaning of a shloka which refers to a 'Reet'(practice)which I, with my limited power of thinking can only interpret as the 'Reet' of 'Naam Japna' (repeating His Name), 'Vand ke Chhakna' (share whatever one earns) and 'Kirt Kamayee' (earn one's livelihppd by the sweat of one's brow) which are the three main tenets of sikhism as preached by our Guru Sahebaan and if anyone chooses to go against it he or she will also face indifference from Him. In case you have thought of some other interpretation of the same, please share with us.

Lastly I am not misleading anyone by inviting listeners or followers to some institution. This blog is my personal space in which i have written what i have thought to be right. If someone chooses to disagree, he or she is most welcome because if everybody thinks alike then no one is thinking much.

Aman Bhatia said...

U have done a very stupid thing u have forgotten the qrbaanies of our gurus our 10th guru had ruiened the lifes of his son for sikhi..the 4 sahibzaade given many benefit from mugals only if they cut hair and become muslim but they refused and accepted qurbaani . I think u have forgotten every thing...turban and beard are our pride..and we get human life after passing 84 lakh species..what u will tell to guru after dying u think u have dona a very good thing...i think u don't believe the teachings of guru but i believe as i have seen many incidents in darbaar sahib i have felt his powers...i think u will be speachless after reading this post..but think about those people u have given qurbani but never cut their hair at any reason but nowdays u people want a reason to cut the hair...ohh bakshanhaar he will give u another chance if u come back again in sikhi swaroop...sorry for my bad english...