Priya and her m-i-l get annual head shaves

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I was 12 when my mom’s family residing in Adoni barged into our house in Kurnool.  I was in awe as all of them – my mom’s parents, her dad’s octogenarian parents, mom’s two younger brothers, their wives and three kids – 2 girls and a boy – all were smoothly bald! They had come straight from a family head shave (gundu) in Tirumala.

The eldest kid, Smita was 3 years younger to me.  She looked exceedingly beautiful as a baldy!  Her mother, Kusuma aunty looked superb with her round cue ball head.  The whole family being bald together! I really liked a family gundu from that moment onwards!

The next day, after they left to Adoni, I asked mom why our family did not get such a family gundu so far.

Mom: Tradition of family gundu is not there in our house.

I: Amma, at least can I get a gundu like Smita?

Mom: Priya, we do not cut girls’ and women’s hair after they complete 5 years of age.  You were tonsured when you completed 2 years and again 2 years later.  But now that you have crossed 5 years of age, no more haircut or tonsure for you.

I was disappointed.  But a thought came to me.

I (with a bright smile): Amma, did you ever get a gundu before marriage?

Mom: Sure, dear.  I got gundu 5 times! Twice before I was 5 which I do not remember.  Those I remember are when I was 9, 13 and 19.  The last one was when I was in 2nd year B.Sc.  All were family gundus at Tirumala.

I: Did you like it?  Is there any photo when you were a baldy?

Mom:  Oh, I liked it immensely.  But I was not allowed to do it here after marriage.  And that photo of me being bald, I do not have here.  I will show you when we go to Adoni next time.

I: If our family does not permit female tonsure, why did grandpa and grandma happily hug and caress the bald pates of the women of Adoni?

Mom: In our family tradition, there is no female haircut.  But in my parents’ house, a periodic family gundu is a must.  Your grandparents always support following the respective family traditions in all families.  That is why they are happy about it.

Two months later, mom, I and my younger brother were in Adoni for a brief vacation.  Mom showed the family photo when she was bald during her B.Sc.  She looked so beautiful.  I envied her.

Years rolled by.  I was 19 and in my second year B.Sc. My hair grew very long – reaching the bottom of my bum.  At that time a combined trip to Tirumala was planned – mom’s parental family from Adoni and our family here in Kurnool.  By now, in Adoni, the octogenarian great grandparents had passed away.  On the other hand, two more kids had arrived – a girl and a boy.  So from Adoni came my grandparents, mom’s two brothers, their wives and 5 kids – 3 girls and 2 boys – totally 3 gents, 2 boys, 3 ladies and 3 girls.  Smita was 16 now and had entered 11th std.

From Kurnool, my grandparents, my parents, myself and my younger brother were there – 3 gents and 3 ladies.  I was overjoyed and asked mom whether a family gundu had been approved in our family also, hoping to enjoy a gundu I was longing for and also hoping to see my 41 year old mom as a baldy.  She said with a bright smile ‘Yes for Adoni family and no for Kurnool family.  Only our three gents will be tonsured.’  I was disappointed again.

In Tirumala, seeing the Adoni ladies happily becoming smooth baldies I grew jealous.  What a beautiful scene it was – wet long hair of beautiful females shorn to skin producing a smooth cue ball head! Running my palm on their smooth domes gave me so much joy.  On the way back home in the hired mini bus, I sat between my two bald aunts for a while and with one hand on each of their gundu heads, I swiped and drummed their smooth and beautiful bald heads simultaneously.   So joyous it was.  Back home I asked mom what I should do to enjoy a gundu at least once in the near future.

Mom said “It is my dream also to see you as a smooth baldy once.  Just pray to Lord Venkateshwara to marry you off into a family where female gundu is allowed.”  So I did what she said – kept praying for marriage into a family which, apart from other good things, allowed female gundu.

I passed B.Sc. and joined M.Sc. Physics in Hyderabad.  With two months to the final examinations, I was astonished to see a senior female professor of Physics, Kamini, turn up bald in the college. I talked to her in private and asked her the reason for her gundu.  She promptly said with a bright smile ‘Tirupati’.  On further discussion, I learnt that it was family gundu along with her husband, two sons and the new daughter-in-law.  It was their family tradition that the new daughter-in-law gets a Tirupati gundu within three months of marriage along with her husband.  To make her feel comfortable, they decided to do a family gundu and everybody was happy about it.

I told her shyly “I am also longing for a gundu but my family tradition does not allow any haircut for grownup females.  I am hoping to get into a family where they allow female gundu, like yours” and giggled.  A bald Kamini madam smiled and asked me of which caste I was.  I told her.

The next day Kamini madam called me to her chamber.  She said “Priya, there is one Rakesh in another college who joined there as a Mathematics lecturer some three years ago.  His mom, Vanaja, is my classmate in B.Sc. and so a close friend.  They are of your caste.  In their family they go for an annual Tirumala trip where all the gents compulsorily tonsure and the ladies compulsorily give three cuts and chop their hair to midback.  Occasionally, ladies also get a full gundu.  She is looking for a match for Rakesh.  You could be a suitable candidate.  If you are interested, I will speak to your parents.”

Shyly I told her with a smile “Thank you madam.  Please speak to my mom.  It will be my parents who will look for a match for me.  It is better that I don’t see Rakesh.  Please do not tell my mom that you have spoken to me about the alliance or about their gundu practice.  You can tell her that you thought I could be a suitable girl for your friend’s son and so collected the contact and spoke to her.”  She agreed.

Kamini madam did not waste time.  So a week later, my parents were in Hyderabad to see the boy and his family (without me).  They were very happy with the alliance since the horoscopes, etc. matched very well.  The next Sunday, I was back in Kurnool for the ‘girl seeing’.  The alliance was firmed up but on my request, the marriage was fixed some eight months later, after my exams and getting a job in Hyderabad.

Kamini madam recommended my name to the Physics HOD of a different college, some 3 km from my prospective in-laws’ house.  I did very well in the interview and got the job.  I stayed in a PG and reported to the college in August.  Everyone envied my beautiful bum long hair.  Little did they know that its days were numbered and I was longing to be rid of it.

The marriage happened and I settled in my new home.  My bank officer f-i-l, housewife m-i-l, my husband and his 20 year old sister Rukmini studying in MBBS all were very good to me.  Rakesh, of course, was very loving.  I started enjoying the new life.

It was three months after my marriage and I was two months pregnant.  My m-i-l said to me “Priya, three days from now, we all will be going to Tirumala for our annual pilgrimage.  Going there once a year in Aashadha is our tradition. I hope you will carry forward this legacy happily”.  I said “Surely, attagaru. As you know, I am a devotee of Lord Venkateshwara.  It is such a happy and solemn thing”.

M-i-l (with a smile): Not just going there, dear. The gents have to shave off their heads and the ladies have to offer 3 cuts and trim their braids short – 4 inches below shoulder for girls upto 15 years of age and 6 inches for those above 15 years. For most females, the braid would have grown by about 6 inches in a year which gets trimmed off. For Rukmini the hair growth is very fast at about 9 inches per annum.  So she cuts off about 9 inches every year.  Since your hair is below your bum, you may have to cut off some 2 ft, this once.

This was it, I thought.  Cutting my bum long hair was just a few days away!  But she is mentioning only cutting it short. If only she had asked me to shave it all off how nice it would have been!  And, I had managed to keep this haircut facet of my in-laws’ household away from my parents.  Now that has to be right royally corrected.  So I said “Ok, attagaru, I will happily do it. But please inform my mom once from your side”.

M-i-l: That is the reason I am talking to you about it. When I told your mom about all this yesterday, she was pleasantly surprised. She said ‘Vanajamma, since we don’t have the practice of cutting women’s hair, we have never cut Priya’s hair after her second gundu at 4 years’ age. Her bum long hair is virgin hair grown after that. If I had my way, I would have got her head shaved once in 5 or 6 years. But my in-laws and husband vetoed it. Now Priya is of your family. You can do as you like. But I will be very happy if you first shave off her bum long hair in Tirumala. She can do 3 cuts and all that from next year onwards. Of course, only if Priya accepts this suggestion happily.’

Hearing this, my spirits rose sky high!  Oh, thank you, amma!  She had spoken to my m-i-l on my head shave! But could this lady be lying? A sudden fear of facing my students also cropped up. So I said “Can I talk to my mom once on this?”

M-i-l: Oh, by all means.

I talked to my mom immediately.  She confirmed whatever my m-i-l had said.  Mom added “Priya, I know how much anxiously you were longing for gundu all these years.  Now, you have got that golden chance and happily get a gundu, dear!”

I said “Amma, I still long for it but since I am 2 months pregnant will a gundu be allowed?  And being a lecturer, I am nervous of going around bald in front of students.”

Mom said “Priya dear, I will explain, listen.  In your in-laws’ house the tradition is annual gundu for gents in Aashaadha and three cuts and end snipping to upper back for ladies.  I asked your m-i-l whether gundu for ladies is allowed.  She said that it was certainly allowed if one desires.  She herself had done gundu about 6 years ago and Rukku about 4 years ago.  And if a female cuts her hair outside a temple for whatever reason, a gundu is a must for her in the next Tirumala visit.  I asked her whether Priya could do gundu now, as she is pregnant.  She said ‘if Priya desires to do gundu now, the whole family would be very happy. Her pregnancy does not matter at all, since it is in Tirumala that she gets shorn bald and her pregnancy is not even three months old’.  And so dear, do not lose this chance.  Get a nice and smooth cue ball head in Tirumala and I am sure you will get back long hair in three years.  After that, as per your family’s tradition trim it to mid-back once a year!” And she giggled.

So I told mom “Ok, but how to face students with a gundu head, mom?  Students will rag me”.  Mom said “Oh come on, Priya.  Have you forgotten that Kamini madam was smoothly bald and it was the reason that you talked to her and got this alliance?  Did she ever feel shy of going around bald in the college?  No, isn’t it?  Take courage, get a gundu happily and go around bald without covering your head for a couple of days.  Some little ragging will pass off if you ignore it.  But I assure you from personal experience that a gundu, especially at Tirumala, is so refreshing that you will feel like doing it again and again.”  I told her that I will decide after talking to Rakesh.

Soon after Rakesh came home, I asked him would he like it if I got a gundu at Tirumala three days hence instead of just three cuts and braid trim.  I can never forget the way his eyes brightened and a wide smile appeared with happiness.  “If you do it happily and go around bald, I will be the happiest person, dear” he said hugging me.  I decided then and there to happily get a gundu this time in Tirumala.

But what happened next was bizarre.  Hearing that I would be doing gundu, Rukmini told her parents that she also would like to do gundu this time, if they allowed.  Anyway, her hair grows fast and she would get back upper-back hair in two years, before her MBBS is completed.  My in-laws happily agreed.  Then my m-i-l asked f-i-l’s permission to do gundu along with daughter and daughter-in-law.  Rukku’s marriage would not be earlier than three years and she would be having upper-back hair by then.  F-i-l happily agreed for the same.

So three days later, the five of us – two gents and three ladies – were in Tirumala.  My parents, grandparents and brother came directly to Tirumala to witness my gundu.  And the gundu process in Kalyanakatta was exhilarating.  I realised why mom had said ‘you will feel like doing it again and again’.  It was really so.  The wetting and massaging of the head, the feel of the razor and its chrr… chrr…. sound of scraping of the wet hair, the falling wet hair touching the skin and giving a tickling sensation, reshave at the end making the head cue ball smooth – oh! Everything was such a beautiful experience!  The beautiful smooth gundu head in the mirror and the great feeling of running my palm on my cue ball head proved to be immensely pleasurable.  I felt jealous of the gents of the house.  They can get a gundu so much more often!  From my parental home, the three gents – grandpa, dad and brother – also got gundu.

My mom was very happy that finally her dear daughter got a smooth gundu, a desire both I and she had harboured for long.  She hugged me, caressed my gundu head and kissed it with motherly love.  Even my grandparents were happy that I got into a household where my gundu desire was fulfilled.  They all went straight to Kurnool while we went to Hyderabad.

As suggested by my in-laws, my mom and Kamini madam, I refrained from covering my head.  The first few hours in the college was really tough.  Everybody was asking about it and staring at it.  But the word ‘Tirumala’ with a wide smile from me did the thing and almost everybody was happy about it.  Some ragging was there but it was on the positive side and I felt happy about it.  The fears I had expressed to mom seemed now to be misplaced.  By the time I returned home I was very happy that I got the gundu and there was never a moment of regret.

Seeing all the five with smooth gundu heads around the dinner table itself was a beautiful sight.  With a hint of jealousy, I said “You gents are so lucky.  You can enjoy a Tirumala gundu so often.  ‘Once in a year’ is the done thing in this family.  How I wish our hair grew so fast that we get 2 feet long hair in one year.  If so, we also could get a gundu every year!” and giggled.

My f-i-l laughed and said “Priya, who prevented you from getting a gundu every year, even with a 6 inch growth per annum?  You can do so by all means and I will happily support my dear d-i-l to be a baldy every year.”  I looked at him happily with open mouth.

My bald m-i-l added “Priya, these are modern times and you are a lecturer.  So why don’t you keep a clipper boycut like gents after some hair grows?  Then, as per our rules you will HAVE to get an annual gundu!” And she giggled again.

Bodi Rukku (as I affectionately called her meaning ‘bald Rukku’) added “Yes, vadina (sister-in-law), you will look superb with a neat clipper boy cut – clipped close all round and just combable on top – just like anna (her brother Rakesh).”

My husband looked as if he was in a different world.  He chimed in saying “Amma, it was three steps to heaven for me to have got a wife so beautiful in a gundu head.  If she keeps a regular short clipper boy cut and annual gundu, I would have climbed the remaining four steps to heaven.”  I fully understood his intent and smiled with shyness.  I said “When all of you are so happy about me having short hair and annual gundu, I will certainly get a boycut at the earliest.”

But m-i-l put cold water on that saying “Not so fast, dear.  You will be completing 3 months of pregnancy in 3 weeks from now.  After that till delivery is over, no haircut or gundu for you….”

My f-i-l butted in saying “Vanaja, let us not have too many rules.  The child (pointing to me) likes to do an annual gundu and I am very happy about it.  Let her keep her hair a boycut or crewcut or whatever once a month, pregnant or not.  She can skip haircut for two months before Tirumala.  That would be sufficient.  Else, she would not be able to get a boycut for several years on one pretext or the other.  Having realised seeing a bald d-i-l, now I am eager to see her in a nice boycut!  So do not put unnecessary road blocks to it.”

My cue ball headed m-i-l happily conceded saying “Ok, Priya.  Agreed with your f-i-l. But just have sufficient hair to put a centre parting for ‘seemantha’ function in your 8th month.  Otherwise, you can go for a nice boycut once a month.”

So three months later, Rakesh took me to the barbershop and told the barber to give me a boycut like what he gets.  I had grown about 2 inches of hair, sufficient for a short boycut.  The barber put a cloth around my torso, tucked it in and combed my hair with a left parting.  He took clippers with no. 1 guide, bent my head down and clippered my hair high up at the nape.  Then he clippered both the sides to about 1 inch above the ears.  He wetted the top hair and scissored it to a neat boycut with a left parting.  Then he took clippers again, removed the guide and clippered the back and sides to almost zero.  Then he merged the clippered areas to scissored area smoothly with scissors.  I really loved the feel of the clippers and the beautiful sight of my boycut.

Back home, my f-i-l, m-i-l and s-i-l were all very happy to see me in that style.  Each of them hugged me affectionately caressing my bald back and sides.  I was the first boycut lady in the family.  F-i-l said “Priya, you look so beautiful either as a baldy or with this type of a clipper boycut!  Keep a regular boycut and an annual head shave, dear!  It suits you!”  M-i-l endorsed her husband’s words.  I was on cloud nine with no regrets for having shed my bum long hair.

To have sufficient hair for ‘Seemantha’, I skipped haircut in the next two months.  ‘Seemantha’ was done in the 8th month and I had about three inches hair, sufficient for a centre parting.  Three days before the scheduled delivery, the barber was called home and he gave me another clipper boycut.  And I was happy to deliver my son with a clipper boycut three days later.  I had two more boycuts in barbershop when my son was 1 month old and 2 months old.  I skipped haircut in the next two months to have sufficient hair for the annual Tirumala gundu.

By the time a year passed after the Tirumala tonsure, my first son was five months old.  Rukku had grown hair almost touching her shoulders while m-i-l had got hair upto about 2 inches above her shoulder.  In the annual Tirumala pilgrimage, the two ladies got three cuts.  My son was too young for his first haircut.  F-i-l, Rakesh and myself got smooth gundu again.

In five years of marriage, I produced three kids – a boy, a girl and a boy.  Both the girl and the second boy were conceived when I was freshly bald from Tirumala. The girl was delivered with a fresh clipper boycut.  The second boy was delivered with a fresh clipper gundu!  We had planned accordingly and in-laws happily agreed.

Rukku completed MBBS and a year later, during her PGD (Opth), was married off to a doctor in Mumbai.  She continued her PGD and became a sought after ophthalmologist in a private hospital in Mumbai.  Her husband is an orthopaedics doctor in a different hospital there.  Having seen my beautiful boycut, he entreated her to keep a similar boycut.  She agreed on the condition that she continues her parental family’s tradition of annual Tirumala 3 cuts and a gundu once in three or four years. He and his parents agreed and immediately she went to Tirumala with her husband and returned home bald after shaving off her midback hair.  Later, she started keeping a boycut like me.

It is nine years since my marriage.  I am happily following the annual Tirumala gundu and a clipper boycut like my husband and f-i-l.  My in-laws, husband and of course myself and my mom are extremely happy about it.  Soon after Rukku’s marriage, my m-i-l got gundu again with the rest of us, that is, four years after her gundu with me.  I told her to try boycut this year with a gundu in the succeeding Tirumala visit.  After some cajoling by the three of us, she agreed.  After her first boycut, she and f-i-l fell in love with it. Since then she also has changed into a clipper boycut lady with annual gundu like me and all are very happy about it.  It is a beautiful sight to see four smooth baldies – two gents and two ladies – around the dining table after every Aashaadha’s Tirumala visit.

In my college, I am a very popular teacher, now an assistant professor.  The staff and students eagerly look for me turning up with a cue ball head in every June/July, i.e. in Aashadha month.  Taking a cue from me, at least 6 female teachers and two female office staff have turned up bald getting a religious gundu at one time or the other, in the last 9 years.  And like me, they all have happily gone around bald without covering their bald heads.  And three of them have switched over to boycut like me.  And each one of them has thanked me for giving them courage to fulfil their gundu and boycut desire.

My daughter is six years old.  We are making her head also bald every Tirumala visit and boycut in between.  We will make her grow her hair long after she completes 10 years.

I have promised my m-i-l that I will continue the tradition of annual Tirumala visit, gents’ gundu and females’ 3 cuts and end trimming or gundu as applicable.  I am hoping to see my daughters-in-law nicely bald in a family gundu programme and later as clipper boycut ladies.  But that is some 20 years away.  Anyway, my dream of getting a smooth cue ball like Tirumala gundu once a year like gents has been realised!

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