Shravan’s ranting on getting a gundu
It was dinner time. I had put my 2 year old daughter, Sukanya to bed. My f-i-l, m-i-l, husband Shravan and myself Ramya sat at the dining table. We started taking our food with light banter.
M-i-l: Ramya, the kid is going to complete 2 years in two weeks’ time. When do you plan to take her to Tirumala for her gundu (head shave)? Already her hair is reaching her shoulders.
Both in my in-laws’ house and my parents’ house ‘no haircut for females’ was the norm, But in my m-i-l’s parents’ house, minimum two times gundu for girls before 5 years age was the tradition. I did not know this but a few weeks after my daughter was born I hesitantly told my m-i-l that I wanted my daughter to get a Tirumala gundu at an appropriate age. For one, I am of the view that the ‘chaula’ (the rites of first haircut – generally a full tonsure) is for both boys and girls. And secondly, I do like a nice bald head on kids and young gents. So cute it looks. A better and healthy hair growth is the added advantage. But I despised the grown females who got religious gundu or even short haircut as hare brained. Why lose such long and healthy hair, I reasoned. That was okay only for very small girls.
I was hesitant because she may become angry, though I do not remember a single occasion that she lost her cool on me. But she was very happy to hear my proposal. “Know what, Ramya? I would have happily done it to my daughter, if I had one. But I had to be content with just one son. Now that you have proposed it, we will do it immediately after she completes 2 years.” I was very happy with her decision. Now she is reminding me of that.
I: Atte (addressing my m-i-l), why not in a month’s time from now? All the four of us and Ramesha (my unmarried younger brother) can take a day’s leave. Anyway, appa (my dad) is retired. So no problem for him.
F-i-l was working in a private company as a senior accounts officer. M-i-l worked as a headmistress in a private school, Shravan as an engineer in a private firm and I as an accounts assistant in a PSU. I used to take Sukanya to crèche on my working days. At the insistence of my m-i-l, I had taken up CA as soon as I was married.
M-i-l: Yes, we can leave on Friday evening three weeks hence. We should be back by late Saturday or early Sunday. What do you say? (she looked at the other three of us questioningly).
All the three of us agreed. I had desired for long that my husband should get a gundu in Tirumala. But he did not agree so far in our two visits to Tirumala since my marriage about 3 years ago. The first one was three months after the marriage. I had privately suggested to him to get a gundu. He flatly refused. The second was when my daughter was about 6 months old. Then I again I suggested that he get a gundu at least once. He again refused. Somehow, I did not raise this matter to in-laws and kept it among us two. On both the occasions, we all had just darshan and came back. Now, I smiled and said:
I: Atte, I feel it would be nice if your son also gets a gundu this time.
M-i-l: (with a smile) Good suggestion, Ramya. But this idiot does not listen. I have tried to make him get a Tirumala gundu ever since he completed PUC. He does not listen and gives out a bland ‘no’. (Some anger and some disappointment showed on her face).
Shravan: (in an exasperated tone, looking at me) Oh! You also joined amma’s brigade now! What is there in you ladies to make us gents bald whenever you visit temples?
I: (in a slightly angry tone) See, you getting a gundu there is auspicious and gives you and the family great spiritual benefits. You getting a gundu is good for the child also. It is no big deal and you will look really good with a smooth head. And you will get back enough hair to comb in a few months. Many males do it happily and you are simply avoiding it without a proper reason.
S: (very angry this time) Oh! Good for the child, is it? Then why don’t you also get a gundu? So many married ladies do it. You also do it. What stops you?
We three were taken aback! A few seconds of dead silence prevailed. He seemed to show some remorse for his sudden outburst.
S: Aa…h, I…I.. Ramya, I.. I did not mean……, you see….. (he started blabbering trying to apologise)
M-i-l: (surprisingly with a smile) Ok, Shravan, will you be happy if Ramya gets a gundu?
S: Aa…. I did not mean it, Amma. But… but….
M-i-l: Don’t blabber like that. Just tell me whether you will like it if she gets a gundu.
S: (shrugged his shoulders) If she likes it, who am I to stop her? She will look good whichever way she is. And……
M-i-l: And…and what? Ok. If she gets a gundu, will you also get one?
I was awestruck at this duel between mom and son. M-i-l is driving the possibility of my getting a gundu and he is saying ok with it! I wanted to intervene, but m-i-l cut me off with a hand sign.
M-i-l: Tell me, Shravan. Will you get one, if she gets it?
S: (appearing a bit cornered) Ok. She need not get it done. I will get a gundu, but this time only.
M-i-l: (with a smile) That is like a good boy. You will really like your smooth dome, don’t worry.
Everybody smiled and the discussion was over. I rang up my parents. My mom, dad and Ramesha would accompany us and the date was okay for them.
My m-i-l proposes a gundu for me!
But one thing really started drilling my head. Why did m-i-l raise the possibility of my getting a gundu? I loved my mid-back long hair and I getting a gundu! The idea seemed strange, if not preposterous.
Sometime after the dinner, I cornered her separately on this.
I: Atte, why did you raise the possibility of my getting a gundu?
M-i-l: (looking perplexed) What is wrong with it, Ramya? Many young married ladies do it along with their kids. On that pretext, I raised it. I thought that since you liked Shravan to go bald, you may also like to get it done, but afraid to say it.
I: Keep aside my liking it or not. Is it permissible for married girls to get a gundu in this house? It is a strict no-no in my parental house. Forget gundu, neither my mom nor I have ever even trimmed our hair.
At that time my f-i-l also joined in. My in-laws are highly lovable people. Having no daughters, they treat me as their daughter. The two were extremely happy to learn that I gave birth to a girl. And the two, though religious and traditional, are also practical and happily accept minor changes in traditions.
F-i-l: Ramya, the same tradition exists in our house also. But we are ok for a change. And both of us desired that Shravan gets a gundu in Tirumala once in a few years. He did it till he completed SSLC under our pressure. But he never obliged after that. Your m-i-l wanted to do it herself when Shravan’s first gundu was done when he was 2. But my parents said a firm no. Else, she would have done a gundu two or three times by now! (And looked at m-i-l with affection and a mischievous smile.)
M-i-l: (with a shy smile) Yes, Ramya. Though, my in-laws are no more, I do not want to break their edict as far as I am concerned. But you, Shravan and your kids are our responsibility and we two really desire that you get a gundu with your daughter. And Shravan is not aware of this desire of ours. He raised the subject all by himself. In fact, I would be happy if married females getting religious gundu becomes a tradition in this house. And mind you, we don’t want to compel you on this. All that I want to say is we would be happy if you happily do it, but it is ok if you say no. I know that with your mid-back long hair you would not get the heart to shave it off (she benignly and affectionately smiled caressing my hairy head).
I was totally taken aback. A totally new dimension was being proposed to me. To divert the subject a little, I said:
I: Even if I agree, would your son be happy with it or just accept it under duress? See, gents getting a gundu is one thing. It is easily acceptable in the society. The hair grows back in a few months. For a woman, the society still looks at her with varying mind sets. And it takes a few years to get back long hair. For a few months the growth looks unkempt.
M-i-l: (giggled looking at her husband) Ramya, why should it be kept unkempt. You can keep it trimmed to a nice boy cut once it grows a little. In fact, Shravan would be very happy if you kept it a boy cut regularly. He told me of his desire of a boy cut wife before we started looking for girls. I admonished him and he stopped talking on that aspect. Probably, he is too afraid to even suggest it to you even after three years of marriage. And that pent up desire burst out in a different context and different form today (and giggled again.)
‘Oh! where this is all leading to’ I thought. I looked at my in-laws with a bland smile and said “Atte, give me some time to digest what all you have said. But tell me whether you got a gundu before your marriage.”
Atte: Oh, yes! In my parents’ house, young girls are shaved a couple of times before they turn 5 years. And even after they are grown up, they are allowed to get a gundu if they desire. My head was shaved five times – once every year – before I was 5 which anyway I do not remember. But I happily got gundu when I was 10 and again when I was 18 (she smiled proudly). And I got back my mid-back hair by the time I was 22.
Shweta’s beautiful gundu head
That night, I brooded over what all my in-laws had said. But for his rare outbursts, Shravan is a very nice, lovable and jolly guy. If I had the right to desire him to be a baldy, he also had the right to desire me to be a boy cut girl. And what bad can happen if I shave off my head? When my in-laws desire it and Shravan does not mind it, I need not bother about what others think. But then my action should not just be as a reaction to Shravan’s outburst. I should do it happily by my own will. Some inspirational thing should happen now to instil that desire in me. Else, I must politely but firmly reject my m-i-l’s advice. What would that inspiration be? I prayed to Sri Venkateshwara to give some definite direction for me in the next 48 hours.
Next day in office, my friend and colleague, Rajendra distributed Tirumala prasadam and said that their family had gone to Tirumala the previous day. I asked him jocularly why he had come back with a full head of hair. But I was taken aback when he said that they had gone for the gundu of his younger sister, Shweta. She likes Tirumala gundu very much. She had vowed a Tirumala gundu if she got a job. She got a job in Postal Department and yesterday, she happily got a gundu shaving off her 3 year growth. She had got a gundu after her 2nd PUC also. Rajendra showed me her before and after photos in his mobile. I was taken aback at the beauty of Shweta even with her gundu! I became quite curious to see her in person.
That evening I went to Rajendra’s house to see a bald Shweta. Oh my! Shweta looked even more beautiful seeing her in person. She was bubbling with joy after her first day in office with a bald head. After chatting with that bald beauty I had to revise my view on female gundu, such was her arguments in its favour. She said “My colleagues say that I am the first female employee who came to office with a gundu head. I am really proud of that. You can also become the proud first gundu lady in your office” and giggled. Finally, with her permission I caressed her smooth dome. The touch of her sandpapery and beautiful bald head sent an electric current in me changing my view completely in favour of female gundu. Lord Venkateshwara had answered my prayer within 24 hours and showed me the direction. I was now totally ready to shed my hair to roots and go around with a smooth dome.
Back home, I hugged my m-i-l and told her happily that I was now fully and happily ready to become a baldy along with my daughter. She and f-i-l were very happy. After Shravan came home, I broke the news to him also happily. He also seemed to have a paradigm change in his attitude. He also welcomed my decision and said that he would also be getting the gundu happily, and not under any obligation. F-i-l happily accepted my suggestion that he also get a gundu. M-i-l accepted my suggestion that at least she could give three cuts. Then I broke the news to my parents. Initially they were dumbstruck, but finally mom said “Ok, Ramya, it is the decision of your in-laws which counts. If they are happy and you are happy, we are ok with it”.
Shravan’s desire for a boy cut me is revealed!
In that night’s dinner, Shravan said “Ramya, how long do you think it will take for you to grow back the full length?” Being forewarned by m-i-l about Shravan’s desire for a boy cut wife, I said “Do you want me to grow it fully or keep it short?” His face brightened but said “I will not mind it either way. If you like to, you can keep a boy cut also. It will also look nice on you.” I read from his face that he was eager to see his wife in boy cut style. I said “I don’t know what my colleagues will say. All our female staff come with long hair only. I will be probably the first one going with a gundu head! But that would be ok being a religious gundu. But what will they think if I go with a boy cut?” Shravan said eagerly “If you can be the first gundu lady, you can also be the first boy cut lady”. I said with a little shyness “Ok, but if we opt for a sibling for Sukanya, you will have to wait longer to see me regularly cut my hair. No haircut during pregnancy, dear!” Everybody giggled at my openness. Now I was game to keep my hair a boy cut if that brings happiness to Shravan. But a sibling for Sukanya was of more urgency and Shravan agreed to ‘work’ on it immediately after coming with smooth heads from Tirumala.
I am happily bald!
The Tirumala trip happened. I nervously but happily submitted my head to the barber to do his work. As the barber massaged my wet hair, slowly my nervousness gave way to anticipation. When he did the first scrape on my crown, the faint chrr… cutting sound of the wet hair became music in my ears. As the shaving progressed the chrr… chrr.. noise, the falling wet hair, the sudden coolness of the scalp and the touch of the barber’s fingers on my exposed scalp – all made my gundu experience a heavenly one. I thanked my favourite god Lord Venkateshwara and my m-i-l in my mind for opening my eyes to this beautiful experience called Tirumala gundu! In four minutes he shaved off my hair to make me a gundu lady. A look in the mirror after that and the beautiful baldy who looked at me told me to resolve to do this again with my second child’s first gundu, may be in about three years.
M-i-l got her three cuts and the remaining four of us became baldies. We returned with the widest smiles. Shravan was also very happy with his own gundu and my gundu also. M-i-l said that her dream of a daughter-in-law doing a Tirumala gundu had finally been realised. She hoped that I would do this often. I said that definitely I would do this often. Even my mom said that I looked really beautiful with a gundu head.
On the way back, I happily caressed my smooth dome once in a while and started looking forward to my next gundu. And I wondered where was that Ramya gone who despised the females who got religious gundu.
I always wear saree to my office and this time it was no exception. I proudly flaunted my bald head and everybody giggled at my enthusiasm with a bald head. I was the first female staff to come with a gundu head in our Division. And in two months I was confirmed to be pregnant. Shravan was disappointed that I could not get the promised boy cut because of ‘no haircut during pregnancy’ rule firmly applied by m-i-l. During this period, I completed my final CA exams also. I delivered a boy whom we named as Subhash and at that time I had about 11 inches of hair, touching my shoulders. And as a bonus happy news, I had cleared CA also. M-i-l was extremely happy. Now Shravan said to me “Now I think there is no bar for cutting your hair, isn’t it?” We understood his eagerness to see a boy cut Ramya.
But m-i-l had other ideas. She said “Shravan, you waited so long. Wait for another year. Ramya will always be a boy cut lady, barring of course a two yearly gundu at Tirumala” and giggled. I looked at her with open mouth. She smiled and said “Yes, Ramya. I know that you have come to like a gundu head and you are now ready to keep a boy cut. So once Subhash completes 10 months, we can do his gundu and along with him you and Shravan also can do it once more. Three months later, you can have your first boy cut.”
I thought that it was a nice plan. Shravan also happily agreed. Around this time, I was promoted to officer cadre in Finance Department. The entire gang went to Tirumala again immediately after Subhash entered his 11th month. By then my hair had grown by another 8 inches reaching my shoulder blades. This time also f-i-l, Shravan, myself and Sukanya became baldies along with little Subhash and m-i-l gave three cuts. I enjoyed my second gundu even more than the first one. Shravan also enjoyed his gundu. Now, I was the first female officer to come with a gundu head in the entire PSU.
My clipper boy cut
Around four months later, m-i-l started reminding me about the boy cut. She appeared more eager to see me in boy cut than her son. In the evening, I shyly told my in-laws “I conceived Sukanya with a full braid, Subhash with a gundu head. Shall I make one more with a boy cut head?” The three guffawed at my openness but m-i-l happily said “Go ahead, dear!” Then I requested m-i-l to waive ‘no haircut during pregnancy’ rule for this third one. She said with a smile ‘ok’. We selected a date just around my ovulation for my first boy cut!
On the chosen day, I took Shravan to the barbershop. He was surprised since he was thinking that I would go to a parlour. All said and done, we are middle class family and why we should spend five or six times for a regular thing like a boy cut, I argued. I insisted that I get a nice and short boy cut with clippers on back and sides. As the barber plunged the humming clippers to my nape, the feel that I got was indescribably good. The zzmmm….. noise of the clippers before it cuts, the chrrrrrr… noise when it cuts, the kach..kach.. noise of the scissors were all music to my ears. And when I saw in the mirror the hair on my temples and above the ears being peeled off by the clippers leaving a greyish bald patch, it was another great experience. The top hair was trimmed to shape with scissors. And finally, the sight of myself with a pucca male hairstyle with bald back and sides looked very good to my eyes. And when I caressed my sandpapery nape and sides, the feel my fingers got was also superb.
At home m-i-l said “Ramya, if I knew that you would look so nice and beautiful with this boy cut, I would have dragged you to the barbershop to get this cut soon after marriage. You look superb like this. Keep this style forever, of course with biennial gundu”, hugged me, caressed my bald nape happily and giggled. F-i-l also said that I looked really good with this style. Little Sukanya also said in her baby voice that I looked good. Shravan was all over himself with happiness. I decided that I would keep this hairstyle. Shravan was very happy with my decision. In the office most said “Madam, you are the first female officer to do gundu and now the first one to come in a boy cut. You look so nice like this. Keep it up!” I felt elated. My parents and Ramesha also appreciated my boy cut style.
That night I and Shravan started ‘working’ on the third baby proposal. Every month I got the boy cut renewed in the barber shop. In nine months from my first boy cut, I delivered another girl baby, Suchitra. And I delivered her with an almost fresh boy cut! Of course, I closed the baby factory.
It is five years since then. A biennial gundu for the six of us with three cuts for m-i-l at Tirumala has become the norm in our family. In between Tirumala gundus, I keep my hair a short clipper boy cut. I, Shravan and my in-laws are extremely proud of my boy cut appearance. I am keeping Sukanya, who is 10 now, also in clipper boy cut. She is also very happy with it. Next year, Suchitra will be six and she will also join the boy cut females group.
One thing though is, I am unable to decide who is happier with my clipper boy cut style – myself or my m-i-l.