Betrayed by the grey

Betrayed by the grey

By the time I turned 40, I was completely grey. And I was quite content flaunting it.

I started greying quite early, around the age of 35. Many of my friends and my wife started pestering me to colour my hair. I had a principle that one has to grey at some point or the other, so what is the point in hiding it? I philosophised that one has to accept it gracefully. I resisted for a long time without giving into temptations –  colour/dye your hair, you’ll look 25, you’ll look handsome in your black hair and so on.

By the time I turned 40, which is a quite young age by modern standards, I was completely grey. Not a single black hair. I was quite content flaunting my grey hair. I continued my philosophy – one has to age, one has to grey; some grey fast and some slow, in my case I greyed pretty fast. However, a series of funny incidents changed my perceptions about my grey hair.

My niece, aged about 8 or 9, would travel to school in her school bus which  stopped at the same place where my office vehicle would pick me up. She always wished me before getting into her vehicle. One day, she just did not even look at me. I wondered what had happened. She did not look at me or wish me the next day or the day after. One evening she came to my place and I found the answer. She told me that one of her friends had asked her whether I was her “grandfather”. She was embarrassed, and from that day on she has never looked at me.

I did not work for some time after resigning from my job in a private company. I would drop and pick my daughter up from school then. Once my daughter was adamant that I stop my car a little away from her school gate while dropping her. She also insisted that I park my car in the next road while picking her after school hours. Intrigued, I asked her the reason and lo! She told me that her friends had asked her whether I was the “car driver”. Well, for the rest of her school term, she got down a little away from her school and never allowed me to drop her at the school gate.

Once I had to accompany my friend to the police station where he wanted to lodge a complaint. We went to the inspector who was talking to some visitors. The moment he saw us, or precisely me, he asked one of the visitors to get up and give a chair to the “senior citizen”. I did not know whether to laugh or cry. Of course, I accepted the chair and sat down. My friend who never missed an opportunity to advise me to colour my hair, was smiling all the way up to his ears.

Every year on my birthday, I take my family to Nanjanagudu to offer special poojas. During one such visit, a priest  who was collecting our details for the ritual, asked me for my name, gotra, nakshtra, etc and then in the same breath, “Your ‘sisters’ names?” looking at my wife and daughters who were standing next to me. My daughters could not control their laughing while my wife looked at me with an expression which said “Have I not told you to colour your hair so many times?” When I told the priest that they are my wife and daughters, he remarked “You got married very late, is it?”

The last straw, as it were, was a marriage function I attended with my wife where a relative who had not seen me for ages asked me after I introduced my wife, “Is she your second wife?” My wife could not take it any more. I do not know whether it was an icing on the cake or ice on my face when one of her friends asked her, “Why did you have to marry such an old man?” That was enough for my tryst with grey hair for 20 years. I had no choice but to buckle at least for the wife’s sake – to spare her from being taunted for marrying an old man; for being a second wife; or for being a sister; all because of my grey hair. Finally, I have now coloured my hair at the age of 55!

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