Postponed vow results in a boy cut marriage

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After I joined 1st PUC, I saw two girls of my class coming with their heads shaved in a religious place, of course a month apart and from different families.  Both had beautiful waist long braids.  And both looked really good with their smooth domes.  And both were very happy about their gundu (shaved head).  I got a strong desire that I also should do a gundu once.  But in the traditions of our house no haircut for females was allowed, let alone a gundu.

And this desire of mine became stronger by the day.  So when I enrolled for CET to get an engineering seat, I thought of vowing to get a gundu (shaved head) at Tirumala if I got a merit engineering seat.  I took the risk of telling my parents of my desire before I committed on it.  After all, the times are changing and probably my parents would not object.

I am the last of three siblings – my elder sis, Rashmi is 6 years older and at that time she had just completed her MBBS internship and started working in a cancer hospital as a junior doctor.  My parents were seriously looking for a groom for her.  My elder brother, Rajesh, is 3 years older and he had entered his 4th year BE.

My grandma (dad’s mom) was 76 then and for her age very healthy and fit.  A widow, she was professor of chemistry in a degree college and retired as principal.   She is very traditional, but at times could be a bit liberal for us youngsters.  I could not guess whether she would agree even if my parents agreed for my gundu.

When I hesitantly told my mom of my desire, she giggled for a while and finally said “Ranju (short for my name Ranjita), it will be hilarious to see you with a cue ball head.  But, what can I do?  Our traditions do not permit such things.  So forget it and enjoy it only in your dreams” and giggled some more.  But my dad who overheard us intervened and said with a smile “Gayatri, don’t disappoint her like that.  After all it is hair and grows back.  Ask amma (his mom) first.  Her decision would be final.”  Mom smiled brightly and nodded ‘yes’.

Mom told grandma about my gundu desire.  Grandma initially guffawed and warned me that all my classmates would show me virtual hell on this.  Would I have the guts to face them?  I assured her that I would face such things.  She then said “Gayatri, happily permit her to do it.  Times are changing and today’s youngsters have their own small desires.  After all, it is hair and will grow back.”  So my mom gave a happy ‘yes’.

But grandma put some conditions: no covering the bald head, grow back long hair by the time of my marriage, take a vow in the local temple, do it at the earliest though no specific time frame, no reneging on the vow.  She suggested that I do it after my first semester, else I will be known to my college friends more as a baldy and less as Ranjita.  Everyone including mom happily agreed.  I said that I would do it in the holidays between semesters.  I took the vow at the local temple.

I got the merit engineering seat.  I was on cloud nine.  Rashmi and Rajesh started to tease me on my impending dome head.  But Lord Venkateshwara had other plans.  By the time I completed 2 months of my first semester, Rashmi’s marriage alliance was completed and the marriage would be in three months, around the time my second semester would start.  She proposed that I put off my gundu programme to a month after her marriage.  All agreed.

Rashmi’s marriage was over.  But a week after the marriage, Rajesh had a fall and fractured his leg.  I did not want to go to Tirumala without him.  It would be some three months before he would be fully fit to climb up the hills.  So we postponed our trip to Tirumala to sometime after my second semester.  Rajesh would have completed his BE and probably in 1st sem of M.Tech. in one of the IITs.

When the second semester was over, I got chicken pox.  No question of going now.  I became well after about a month.  But then, my third semester and Rajesh’s 1st semester M.Tech. in IIT, Madras were in full swing and we could not afford to take time out even on weekends.  With a heavy heart, grandma and parents agreed to postpone it to end of my third semester.

At the end of third semester, grandma had a heart attack and the trip was postponed by another semester.  At the end of fourth semester, dad had an urgent 3 month trip abroad.  As per norms, an unmarried girl should fulfil her gundu vow in the presence of her parents when they are alive.  So it was postponed to end of 5th semester.  Grandma said to my mom “Gayatri, this time don’t miss the date.  Already, it is too late.  Else, she will have to get married with a boy cut!” and grandma giggled.  Though said in jest at that time, it became prophetic.

End of 5th semester was another disaster with heavy rains making Tirumala very risky to go to.  Now the entire family became very nervous.  Some impediment or the other was coming in the way to fulfil my vow.  By the time the rains eased and the trip was safe, my 6th sem and Rajesh’s M.Tech. 4th sem (project work) got underway in full swing.

Now, grandma and parents suggested not to wait for end of semester.  A Saturday, about 2 weeks hence, was finalised.  Barely a day had passed when Rashmi called mom on phone and upset the applecart.

Rashmi had enrolled for PG Diploma in cancer research in the hospital which she had joined.  She came across an 80 year old lady patient, Malati, who had developed breast cancer and was in early 4th stage.  The family had been shattered when another hospital had written off the case and told the family that she would die any time.  But some noble soul had suggested to them to try once at this hospital.

Treatment was given at this hospital for a few weeks and the specialists told Malati’s family that she is out of danger for now but would survive just about another year.  She would be discharged in about four days.  But Rashmi saw beautiful family values in that family.  Malati, her son Jagadeesh and daughter-in-law Anupama, her two grandsons Madan and Mohan, Priya the wife of Madan and her two toddlers – all gave the impression of a well-knit family.

During the course of discussions, Rashmi came to know that the family was of our own caste.  A day before Malati was discharged, Anupama shared with Rashmi her problems.

Madan married Priya some six years ago.  From the word go, she has adjusted to their family and family values extremely well and became close to all.  She took to Malati like her own dear ‘Ajji’ (grandma) and became very close to her.

About a year ago, Malati told Jagadeesh “Jaggu, Mohan has joined a college as lecturer.  I would like to see him get married at the earliest.  I am already 79 and don’t know when the call will come.  Why don’t you start looking for a bride for him?”  While most of her suggestions were accepted by all without much murmur, in this case Mohan dilly dallied in spite of his deep love and respect for his grandma.  He went on saying month after month “let one year be over in the college, ajji”.

When the first hospital said that Malati would die any time, the most upset was Priya.  But she is a courageous and religious girl.  It was she who insisted on a second opinion.  She told her m-i-l Anupama that if ajji survived, she would like to offer hair at Tirumala as vow.  Would she permit?

Anupama was surprised at the deep love the girl had for her ajji.  Even Anupama had been very upset about the possibility of losing her m-i-l who had treated her like her own dear daughter.  She consulted Jagadeesh and Madan and they decided to do a family gundu as vow if Malati got a lease of life.

When Malati was declared out of danger for now, Anupama told her m-i-l of her condition and life expectancy and also of their vow with hesitancy.  A bald Malati (hair loss due to chemo) laughed and said “Anu, I am deeply touched by your love for me.  If you have made that vow, you will have to fulfil it.  But what is more urgent for me is to see Mohan getting married.  It would not be nice to do his marriage with you and Priya being baldies.  So, do the marriage fast and do the family gundu later, maybe along with the new bride.  By then I would have grown an inch of hair.  I will also join you in getting a gundu.  A religious gundu is always better than a chemo gundu” and she laughed.

For the family, the wish of Malati is their command.  Jagadeesh immediately started searching for a bride for Mohan.  In three days he could get details of some four probable brides.  Telling all these, a worried Anupama told Rashmi in hospital “My husband is looking for the bride.  But with the family tonsure condition, who will accept to come to our family?  I do not know what Lord Venkateshwara has in store for us.”  Rashmi thought for a while and took Anupama’s contact number.  She thought that this family is a gem of a family and why not put me (Ranjita) into that house as their d-i-l?

Immediately, she came out of the ward, called mom and told her the entire story.  Finally she said “amma, I know that Ranju is still studying.  This family is very good.  The boy Mohan is also a gem of a person.  Ranju anyway has vowed a tonsure on her own.  Why not propose her to Mohan?  She can continue studies even after marriage.  If the horoscopes match, we should persuade her to agree.  And the matter is urgent.  Give a quick response.”

Mom discussed with grandma and dad.  The three agreed with Rashmi’s line of thinking.  Mom told me what was happening.  I was dumbstruck.  But grandma convinced me that it is ok to get married during studies if the boy is really good.  With some persuasion I agreed for sending the horoscope.   So, immediately they sent the horoscope copy to Rashmi’s mobile.  All this happened in about 3 hours after Anupama told her story to Rashmi.

Rashmi went back to hospital in the night, told Anupama about me, my studies, my gundu vow and exchanged horoscopes with her.  Anupama was really happy about the enthusiastic response of Rashmi.  In two days, the information came that the horoscopes matched very well.  Dad had made some discrete enquiries about Mohan who was working as a Physics Lecturer in a degree college.  He got very positive feedback on the boy.  By then Malati had been discharged.

Two days later, Jagadeesh, Anupama and Mohan came to ‘see’ me.  The boy was really handsome and had pleasing manners.  I gave my nod and he also gave his nod.  They had agreed for continuing my studies and working later.  Mom told them of my pending gundu vow.  Anupama with shyness told about their family’s gundu vow.

At that time Jagadeesh put a bomb but in nice words “Ranjita’s vow is your vow.  Our family vow is ours.  It is not honest to mix the two.  Her current vow should be fulfilled before marriage.  We don’t mind her getting married with very short hair.  A few weeks after the marriage, we would be having the family tonsure when she will become bald again.  Anyway, please come tomorrow to our house to show her to my mom.  On this gundu thing, her rule will be final.”

So all of us, including Rashmi, her husband Shankar bhava and their year old son, went to their house the next day.  I was really impressed by the family atmosphere in their house.  Malati was very happy to see me and endorsed me immediately.  After the discussions, she ruled “what Jagadeesh said is correct.  Get Ranjita fulfil her vow immediately.  We can have the marriage in about 3 months.  She can get a short boy cut a week or 10 days before the marriage.  About a month after the marriage, she would have a second gundu as part of this family” and gave a broad smile.

When we came back home, grandma looked at me and said “Did I not warn you?  See, now you have come to a state when you are getting married with a boy cut” and giggled.

Being in the beginning of 7th sem, prospective employers come for recruiting people.  I had a few lined up in the next week and I became nervous on facing placement interviews with a smooth dome.  Granted that it was I who opted to take the gundu vow.  But now I was in a sticky situation as for timelines, which was no longer under my control.  But my parents and grandma advised “Ranju, come out of your doubtful mood.  Just enjoy your vow.  The prospective employers will no doubt ask you about it but be confident and honest and tell them that you are religious and it is your vow.  If that becomes negative in their view, decide that they are negative in your view and say good riddance.”  So I cheered up and all of us set out to Tirumala on Friday evening.  Rajesh would join from Chennai.

In Tirumala, I, Rajesh and Shankar bhava walked up the steps.  Grandma, my parents, Rashmi and her little son went up by bus.  On Saturday morning, all of us walked to the Kalyanakatta.  First Rajesh and then I got our heads tonsured.  For Rajesh it was the third time in Tirumala.  But for me and for that matter for any female in our family it was the first time.

So finally, a very happy moment was here – the smooth gundu I had desired so much some three years ago.  And it turned out to be happier than I had imagined.  The wetting of my hair, the massage, the chrr….chrr…. noise of the razor shaving the hair, the fine sensation of the hair being cut, the cool air grazing the bald scalp, wet hair grazing the cheeks, the barber’s hand on my shaved head – oh, all were a heavenly experience.  The final second round shaving by the barber was one more fine experience.

When I saw my face in the mirror, I could not believe that a baldy could look so beautiful!  And to caress my smooth pate, what a grand experience it was!  And all my people – grandma to Rajesh – said that I looked very beautiful as a baldy.  If my elders told me to keep a bald head for ever, I would have happily said yes at that time.  It is another matter that my mom and siblings teased my left and right and had a good laugh.  I once quipped in private to my mom “amma, if you like my gundu head so much, why don’t you also get it done?”  She said that allowing me was one thing but she was sure that grandma would never agree if she (my mom) wanted to do it.

The next day evening I and mom went to Mohan’s house to give prasadam and show my bald head to my prospective in-laws – as had been demanded by Malati before we left for Tirumala.  It was a surprise to all of them that I could look so beautiful as a baldy.  The ladies – Malati, Anupama and Priya – kissed my bald head while the gents – Jagadeesh and Madan – caressed it affectionately.  Mohan said that I looked really beautiful.  The two kids of Madan also smiled and caressed my cue ball head.

In college, classmates and staff did giggle and laugh.  A few suggested to cover my gundu head with a scarf for a few weeks.  I said no with a smile.  In the placement interviews – I faced three of them in the week – two companies commented on it in a less than honourable way as if it was unprofessional to have a shaved head.  I told them to get lost.  The third one was magnanimous in saying that I looked good, my hair length did not matter and selected me for my technical prowess.  I was very happy.

Three more months passed.  The exams were over.  The marriage would be held in two weeks’ time.  I had grown some two inches of hair.  Dad took me to barbershop the day after my last exam.  He asked the barber to give me a nice and short boy cut.  The barber said that with just two inches of hair, it would be better to clipper the back and sides close and trim the top suitably to comb it.  When dad said that I would be getting married in two weeks’ time and such a cut would not suit, the barber said “Don’t worry sir, she has a fast growth and in two weeks’ time, the back and sides would register a growth of quarter inch and that would give a very beautiful appearance.”

So he combed my hair to a left parting, clippered the back and sides to skin and scissored the top to a neat combable length.  And that sensation of getting clippered!  I hoped that I would be allowed to get a clippered boy cut like this regularly!  I giggled at my own pucca boyish look but I really liked it.  Running my palm on my sandpapery nape gave a great thrill.  My folks also giggled at my looks but they also said that it looked good.  I visited my prospective in-laws’ place and all had a fine laugh at my boyish looks but said that I looked really nice like this.  Mohan could not take his eyes off me.  I could sense that his fingers were itching to caress my bald back and sides but we had been strictly told ‘no touching till the marriage is over’.  So he was disappointed.

As told by the barber, by the date of marriage, the back and sides had lost their greyish colour and became beautifully blackish.  The sandpapery feel had given way to a velvet feel.  All from the groom’s side appreciated my looks.  Malati, now my granny, said to my m-i-l Anupama “Anu, she looks so good with a boy cut!  After our family gundu, why don’t you advise her to keep a boy cut regularly?  It will be a fine change in our house.  Priya with a long braid and Ranjita with a short boy cut.  What do you say?” and giggled.

M-i-l smiled and said “Amma, you are right that she looks fantastically beautiful like this.  But, we will take a decision after some hair grows after the family gundu.  Who knows, Priya also may like to be that way” and winked at Priya akka (Priya sister).

The marriage happened with me in boy cut.  Many guests did comment on that.  The answer was simple.  “I had a gundu vow which I had complete before marriage.  And so I have short hair.  And what is the big deal about it?  Do I not look good that way?”  Most people happily accepted my explanation, but a few scowled unable to retort.  I did not care as I was happy to be one of those few girls to have got married with a clipper boy cut.

I wanted to avoid consummating the marriage before I completed my studies.  But none would agree – neither from my m-i-l’s side nor my parents’ side.  So we consummated our marriage in my m-i-l’s house two days after the marriage.  Now, granny said that she was fully contented.

And within a week, I lost any hint of a doubt I had for marrying into this family in a hurry.  I found Mohan and the family to be gems.

A month after the marriage, we all went to Tirumala for the family gundu.  Since granny could not walk, we took her in wheel chair.  Barber came to the cottage to shave her head.  All the rest got our heads shaved in Kalyanakatta.  M-i-l, Priya akka looked excellent as baldies.  All were very happy.  A super happy m-i-l told granny that if only all young married ladies do gundu like this once in a while, the world would be more beautiful.  For the second time I appeared in my college as a bald girl.

Amma became jealous of my m-i-l.  She told me “Ranju, if only I am also allowed once to do a gundu like your m-i-l.  She looks so beautiful with a gundu head!”  My grandma who heard this said “Gayatri, why do you feel jealous?  You never said that you liked to do it.  I do not mind at all if you also want to enjoy a gundu head once in a while.  If you like it that much we can also have a family gundu!”  And promptly, a month later, my folks – grandma, dad, mom and Rajesh – all returned bald from Tirumala with the widest of smiles.

Granny said that she would like to keep her hair very short like a crewcut.  Taking her to barber would be difficult.  Priya said that she would cut granny’s hair once a month.  So clippers with attachments were bought.  Two months after the Tirumala visit, Priya ran the clippers with ¾ inch attachment all over granny’s head and it looked good.  She improved it with tapering the sides with a quarter inch attachment.  She is a quick learner and by the second month she was at ease with handling the clippers.

My final exams got over about 5 months after my marriage.  All but granny had grown about 3 inches of hair.  The gents got their usual haircuts.  The talk again came of a boy cut for me – this time quite seriously by granny.  M-i-l asked Priya akka and Madan bhava whether they wanted Priya akka to sport a boy cut.  Priya akka firmly said no but she wanted to do a family gundu like this once in four or five years.  All happily agreed.  So Priya akka continued to grow her hair.

M-i-l asked me whether I would be happy to keep a boy cut on a regular basis.  I said I would of course be very happy to keep a boy cut.  But I had some requests – it will be a short clipper boy cut like what I got two weeks before marriage, and could Priya akka cut my hair like this (I showed my clipper boy cut image in my mobile) once in a month?  Priya akka giggled and said “I will happily do so, but you should not blame me if I spoil it”.  I said ‘no problem, akka.  If spoilt, you have the option to shave it all off’.  All giggled again.  And the very first haircut was done on me by Priya akka the next day.  And it came out to be a grand success – bald on back and sides with zero clippers and a fine combable style of about 2 and half inch maximum on the top.  I was very happy.   I reported to the company with a fresh clipper boy cut.

Rajesh married Rukmini some two years after my marriage.  She got two kids in quick succession, 18 months apart.  When the second kid completed 2 years, the family had a second family gundu – Rukmini also happily got a gundu head.  That was some three and half years ago.  Mom desired that five yearly family gundu become the norm in the house.  Rukku has happily endorsed it but she will not do boy cut.  Grandma is 87 and keeps her head a crew cut since their first family gundu.  Like Priya akka did for granny here, Rajesh is keeping grandma’s head a crew cut with clippers.  After Rajesh’s marriage, Rukku does the clippering of grandma’s head.

It is eight years since my marriage.  I also learnt to clipper granny’s hair as beautifully as Priya akka did.   Granny, who had been given about 1 year’s life back then, lived for three years and was happy to see my first kid, a daughter.  She passed away a contented woman.  Now I have three kids – a daughter and two sons.  I get a monthly clipper boy cut from Priya akka and she has become a very good barber.  And the naughty girl that she is, she gives me a military cut once a year.  And I enjoy that also.

We had one more family gundu some three years back.  As a ‘return gift’ to Priya akka, soon after this second family gundu, I clippered her head bald twice a week for two months!  Our joint family is going strong with firm family bond with old traditions being firmed up and the new one added – of periodic family gundu and regular clipper boy cut for one daughter-in-law.

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