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Guest Post By Privamvada Mangal

“Oh my God! Why would you do this?”
“Are you into girls?
“Are you sick?”
“Are you out of your mind?”

These were some of the initial reactions I received after I decided to shave my shoulder length hair when I went on a solo trip to McLeodganj on the 1st of May.

Traditionally, people in Hindu communities shave their heads after the death of a family member. If the father dies, his sons shave their heads—this is practiced even today. In certain communities in India, women have to shave their heads after their husband’s death. Illness could be another reason why people shave their heads.

Shaving off your hair is considered a bad omen or a taboo. More so, if it’s a lady who has done it.

Why did I shave my head?

Basically, because I wanted to!

Back in 2001, I had seen a classmate shave her head when we were in school. I thought it was the coolest thing, and I wanted to do it since then, at least once in my life. During my first Vipassana course in 2012, I bumped into a Chinese lady with a clean shaven head. At that very moment, my desire to go bald reached its very peak.

I completed my post-graduation in April 2017 and was recovering from the end of a relationship. I thought this was the safest point in life to experiment with the ultimate “hair style” that I wanted to get. It would not really be awkward in college and at least my boyfriend would not “break-up” with me for going bald.

While other women choose to scent, straighten, perm, color, beautify their hair using various products, I chose to shave all my hair off. I absolutely love my hair, and I’ve kept my shaved hair in the cupboard.

Shaving off your hair is considered a bad omen or a taboo. More so, if it’s a lady who has done it.

Only three people knew beforehand that I was to shave my head: my sister, my cousin, and my favourite professor. If I would have my entire family about my plans for my hair, they would have emotionally blackmailed me and coerced me to not shave my head. So I decided to just go for it, and let them figure it out later. Anyways it’s just my hair; it would grow back, I told myself.

The only thing that petrified me, was regretting my own decision at any point of my hair regrowth.

Flashback to how I did it:

May 1, 2017: I got down from the bus at McLeodganj from Delhi. The first thing I asked the first local I could spot was, “Is there a barber shop nearby?”

I went straight to the barber shop he pointed to and inquired if the barber there was free to shave my head. The barber was probably stunned since he was unable to comprehend my decision as I had beautiful hair. He asked me multiple times if I was sure about shaving my head. After assuring him that I had made up my mind, he reluctantly took the razor, and I recorded the whole process on my DSLR.

Also Read: Why I Dreaded Visits To The Barber: On Short Hair And Hair Politics

Having my head shaven was an amazingly liberating feeling. It made me experience a high of being totally free in that moment. The feeling amplified because of the fresh and clean air of the mountains of McLeodganj. Having my head shaved was a new beginning for me. It symbolised leaving my old thoughts, grudges, negative and self-destructive patterns behind, and looking at life in a brand new way. Owning my mistakes, taking responsibility for my thoughts, actions and relationships, and striving towards everything I wanted to achieve in life. However, this was not the initial thought I had in my head.

After I returned from my solo trip, I tied a scarf on my head for two days. Obviously I was petrified of the ensuing reactions from my family. They admitted they were not happy with my shaved head after I sent them my bald head picture on WhatsApp from Himachal. My mom didn’t talk to me for two weeks. My father introduced me by saying, “This is my daughter, but she’s bald,” so that people do not assume that I am a boy. People mistook me for one with this hairstyle coupled with the tomboy dressing.

When my dad’s best friends compared my look to that of Persis Khambatta and Sinead O’Connor (really pretty ladies, Google them), my mom thought that my shaved head wasn’t as bad an idea as she had initially though slowly resumed speaking to me. Some people started calling me Dangal girl, (which rhymes with my surname) in a good way, of course!

Having my head shaved symbolised leaving my old thoughts, grudges, negative and self-destructive patterns behind, and looking at life in a brand new way.

Even a month after shaving my head, I was skeptical about uploading my shiny bald head on social media, but a close friend insisted that I must. So I did! I got amazing reactions and comments from people and friends, even the ones I hadn’t spoken to in years!

Some of them commented that they have always wanted to go bald, but they did not do so fearing negative reactions from people. I believe you will get to know how many people love you for the person you are and not what you choose to do with your looks. And anyway it is just the hair, it will grow back.

As far as my hair is concerned, it has grown quickly. I feel really comfortable with this hairstyle, more than I have ever been. I love my hair at each stage of its growth too. Most importantly, I would have never known that I like the way I look, in a boy cut. I would definitely shave my head again if I want to, but I guess it’s time to try something different this time!

Also Read: Sikh Women And The Politics Of Hair


Featured Image Credit: Pinterest

Priyamvada decided to go bald on the 1st of May on a solo trip to Himachal after completing her post graduation in Social Communications Media. She is a 25 year old photographer from Mumbai and can be followed on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

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