Malati happily agrees for gundu
Maalu had calmed down and was intently listening. After Pranati completed her ‘mini-speech’, she was awestruck hearing what all Pranati said. After a period of silent introspection she miled benignly and said “Aunty, are you sure that it is a nice experience?”
P: Sure, dear. I am telling it out of my own experience. For about a week I could not stop caressing my gundu head once in a while and enjoy the feeling. Initially very smooth, sandpapery for the next two days, like velvet for the next four or five days and so on. It is only our mental inhibition and a fear of those people who question it which prevents us from enjoying it. Just come out of that inhibition and you will enjoy it yourself and your whole family enjoys it. And from what I saw in Poorna family, the family gundu is a very beautiful and enjoyable practice for family bonding.
M: When you did your gundu in I BA, did not the friends and neighbours tease you?
P: That was part of the game. They teased me and I used to laugh it off. Barring a few, most of the people really appreciated it – most of them for my religiosity, many for my beauty with a bald head and many for my boldness. Since I had made up my mind to enjoy it, I could take all teasing in my stride.
M: You have promised your m-i-l that you will not cut your hair again. I hope you have not promised that you will not allow your d-i-l also to cut her hair! (and she giggled mischievously looking at Nimmy).
Now, Nimmy was alarmed and she looked at Maalu with blazing eyes. She wanted to say something but Pranati waved her down.
P (with a giggle): “She wanted that also. I told her that I can promise for myself but not for my daughters or daughters-in-law. ‘What will I do if they turn up with a modern haircut, since times are changing’ I had asked. It was 1977 and I could see many young girls with bob hair moving around in Bangalore at that time. She understood my problem and did not press it! (Pranati giggled again). Rukmini was in 9th standard when my m-i-l passed away at 72. Three years later, I myself persuaded Rukmini to get a Tirumala gundu and later keep a boy cut for some time. Her dad also welcomed it.
“And Rukmini got the gundu a month after her BE classes started. Initially she was reluctant but once she experienced it, she was very happy. She looked really cute as a baldy and she really enjoyed it. Her dad loved the bald head of his daughter very much. And once she experienced the joy of clippers on her back and sides in the barbershop and finding a lot of time to do things other than attending to her hair, she loved that short boyish hair and wanted to keep it forever. And when she entered the 5th semester, against my own conscience, I had to compel her to grow it long for the sake of marriage. She started growing it after happily getting one more Tirumala gundu. A year after her BE was completed, she was married away with midback long hair – a good growth in three years. A week after the marriage, she went to Tirumala with her husband and got her head shaved off! A week later she flew to USA with just about 3 mm of black bristles. And that was six years ago. Now, she is in US with her husband and two kids. She comes to India for an annual visit around Christmas. And in alternate years, she gets a Tirumala gundu and the remaining times she keeps a short boy cut.”
M: But, Aunty, I like my hair long. I do not want to have bob or boy cut!
P: Who asked you to do those things? What they are asking is just get a gundu once in five years. You can grow it long in that period (giggles again).
M (with a false anger on Pranati): Why are you giggling?
P: Imagining a beautiful and bald Maalu (and she hugged Maalu affectionately)
M: If you feel bald is so beautiful why don’t you ask Nimmy also to get a gundu?
Nimmy gave an angry look at her dear friend, Maalu and said “Maalu, why are you dragging my name into it? My hair may not be as long as yours but I like it this way. Don’t dream of me getting it cut.”
P: Nimmy, do not take it so seriously. Maalu just wanted to pull your leg. She has in principle agreed to toe her m-i-l’s line happily and enjoy a family gundu. Since you two are working in the same department, she was looking for some company. Am I right, Maalu? (she also looked mischievously at Nimmy and giggled with her fingers on her lips. Nimmy shot an angry glance at her m-i-l. Pranati suddenly became serious and continued) But, even if she wants to do it, I will not allow now, since she is pregnant.
M: (with a shy smile): Ok, Aunty. I think you are right. Sorry for having spoken rudely about my m-i-l and mom. I now feel that they may be right. Rajesh also became a bit angry when I expressed reluctance to get my head shaved and tried to convince me that it would be a good experience. But I did not listen to him, rather quarrelled with him yesterday night. Now, I will apologise to him and tell him that I will go along with the family gundu.
P: And Maalu, please bring all your people here to Bangalore straight from Tirupati and be around for a day or two. Not all of them have seen your new residence or Bangalore for that matter. After all, it is Christmas holidays. And I would like to invite them for lunch or dinner in my house. It would be so nice to watch eight people of the same family, all with nice gundu heads, being together (and benignly smiled again.)
M: (with a gleam in her eyes now) I will tell them, Aunty. I also hope they will accept to come.
So that night Maalu apologised to Rajesh for her harsh words and told him that she also would happily tonsure with the rest of the family that Saturday in Tirumala. Rajesh became very happy and thanked Pranati on phone for counselling Maalu. Maalu talked to her parents, Satya, a high school headmaster and Ramani, a housewife, in Kurnool and invited them to join the trip to Tirumala. They could come to Bangalore by Thursday evening. They would leave on Friday morning to Tirupati by Rajesh’s car. Maalu’s parents agreed to come and witness their daughter’s first ever gundu. Maalu telephoned her brother Pranav in Chennai and he also agreed to come straight to Tirupati on Friday evening.
Rajesh talked to his parents about Maalu’s agreeing for the gundu and also that her parents and brother would come along. He also told them about coming to Bangalore for a day or two. They happily agreed to change their plans. Gundu and darshan would be on Saturday and they would land in Bangalore Saturday late night. They will leave Bangalore on Monday evening to reach Guntur by Tuesday morning.
In Pranati’s house, Nimmy was still angry on her m-i-l. It was probably for the first time she got angry on her m-i-l in her nearly five months of married life. She confronted her m-i-l “Atte, why did you pull my leg that way in Maalu’s presence?”
P: Nimmy, just take it sportingly. Getting angry and disturbed on such small things will only add to your stress. Just laugh it off.
Around that time Pranesh walked in enquiring what the hot discussion was about. Nimmy had cooled down and with a giggle told him about the fate of Malati’s hair the coming Saturday. She said with a giggle and moving her palm on her own head in a circular fashion “When we will see her on Sunday, she will be ‘Bodi Maalu’” and giggled again. She also complained about Maalu suggesting she (Nimmy) also do gundu and his mom supporting her. Pranesh laughed it off. “Nimmy, amma would have taken it as an opportunity to pull your leg. Anyway, even if you want to, you will not be allowed since you have crossed three months of pregnancy. But one thing. I remember how beautiful my sis Rukku looks either with a bald head or with her short boy cut. So do not think bad about women being bald or short haired” saying so with a smile, he walked to his room to change.
Now Nimmy was dumbstruck for a while. Pranesh likes his wife to be a shorty! And a baldy also! After being like a dumb doll for a few seconds, she told her m-i-l with mock anger “You both are incorrigible” and joined her husband in his room. Pranati was giggling behind her.
Nimmy recalled that during her marriage in Aug, Rukku was having a boy cut. She had seen the photos of Rukku as a baldy and with boy cut hair before her marriage. But she had not paid much importance to it. Now, she again saw the photos of a bald Rukku and also a boy cut Rukku. Now Nimmy thought that Rukku really looked beautiful in both. A small desire floated in her “Why not I also do a gundu once? Anyway, my hair is not that long!” But she kept this desire within herself.
(to be continued)