Thursday, December 5, 2013

The feeling of fatality after a haircut- My First Blog

The other Sunday I took my son, Ishaan (5 yrs) out to the barber's for a haircut. We were going walking in the morning sun happily that we shall be getting a lovely summer treat.
We entered the barber's with a smile on our face. Ishaan was very happy that he was going with his father "alone" for a haircut. I placed Ishaan on the chair as usual and told the barber "chota karo", the usual small hair cut that we get. He clasped a automatic razor and showed me a small sample cut. It did not look that bad and I asked him to go ahead.

I got into another chair and asked another barber to cut my hair too. But when all was finished, I got a shock of my life that the barber had nearly tonsured my son's head. I was wild at first, and started scolding the barber; but, then realized the futility of the dialogue. My son's face also had become so small that I was feeling bad. next came the feeling of guilt as he was always styling his hair in front of the mirror a few days ago. I was feeling as if I was the person responsible for the act. I consoled my son that the hair will grow again soon and I resolved to myself that I shall never leave my son alone during a haircut.

It is that feeling of fatality, as if the hair will not regain its original lushness, was eating into me. Much later when I analyzed my feelings, I realized how in a matter of an hour, my feelings were bashed about from being happy, nonchalant, angry, guilty, repentant, self-consoling, acceptance, etc.
That monkey mind....made me its prey that day.

In Hinduism, the underlying concept is that hair is a symbolic offering to the gods, representing a real sacrifice of beauty, and in return, the offerers are given blessings in proportion to their sacrifice. Hair cutting (Sanskrit chuda karma, chuda karana) is one of the traditional saṃskāras performed for young children:
"According to the teaching of the revealed texts, the Chudakarman (tonsure) must be performed, for the sake of spiritual merit, by all twice-born men in the first or third year." In some traditions, the head is shaved completely, while in others a small tuft of hair called sikha is left.
In some South Indian temples like Tirumala, Palani and Tiruttani, it is customary for pilgrims to shave their heads in or near the temple of the god they are visiting.

There has been an Indian custom to perform tonsure on widows after their husbands' deaths. It is not uncommon to tonsure the head of a child after the death of a parent (usually the father). It is also usual for male relatives, especially the first-born son of the dead father, to have his head shaved in mourning. The corpse, too, often receives the tonsure after death. K. Jamanadas has argued that tonsure was originally a Buddhist custom and that Brahmanic practices always considered tonsure inauspicious.

Tonsure in the Hindu culture serves multiple purposes and is used as a symbol. One of its most prominent, and original, purposes was to show one's love for the gods by washing away one's past and starting anew. This was done by women as well as by men. However, over the course of thousands of years, tonsure has found new purposes. It can denote one's social class or personal standing. For example, someone with a closely shaved head is practicing celibacy.

It can be also be used for punishment or to show that someone is an outcast in society because of a law he has broken. A social outcast will have a partly shaved head, while men that are ardently religious will shave their heads leaving only a sikha. Additionally, tonsure can be used for punishing people for severe crimes. For example in mid-June 2009, a Hindu woman and her two sons were accused of killing her husband. They were then beaten in public and shaved bald, symbolic of social ostracizing. There are many other cases of tonsure being used for this purpose. However, when this is done the people are shaved clean, leaving them completely bald. In historical Hindu mythology, heads and moustaches of enemies have been shaved as a humiliation.

This was not a justification for my punishment. I almost died a silent death that day.

No comments: