The business of dyeing

Are you dyeing or dying? I hadn’t bargained for this when I switched on the radio. A talk by a renowned doctor of Bangalore on the ill-effects of lead on humans was what I expected. After explaining the ways in which humans ingest lead, such as vehicle exhausts, paints, cosmetics, etc and how even micro quantities of it hampered mental and cognitive development in children, kidney damage etc, the doctor went on to speak of lead in hair dyes and hair colourants.

Then suddenly the doctor sprang this startling question, “Do you want your blood pressure to increase, your kidney function impaired, your risk of cancer increase manifold?” Unwilling to entertain macabre thoughts, but those words still ringing in my ears, I did some mental exploration on this dyeing business.

Firstly, why do we, er, dye? Obviously, to hide those irritating grey strands. For what? Stupid, I tell myself. What else for, if not to look younger and smarter? Grey hair adds to your years. You look older than you really are. Colleagues give you a pitying sort of look, as if they are pooling money for the send-off party. The boss looks much younger in his, yes, dyed mane, whereas you look like his father. The middle aged lady wants to compete with the pretty young thing. Never mind if her sagging skin and ungainly gait give the game away.

I still remember the time when all this dyeing began. Little sticks of a black, sticky stuff formed the arsenal of people against the onslaught of age. This had to be applied by hand and one had to skillfully smear it evenly, lest there be an uneven coverage. One had also to be careful in leaning against walls, seats, etc, for fear of leaving a black impression. Now, we have a range of liquids, gels, etc.

As it wears off over time, the dye needs reapplication. The white partition at the forehead, the cheeky white strands at the nape of the neck, the stubs of white at the moustache all reveal the dyeing malfunction. With all this, why do we still dye? Can’t we age gracefully? Anyway, I still haven’t died, oops, dyed!

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