Radha refuses to go bald
Being the only daughter of a middle class working couple, I did not have much to complain on means except that I was a lonely child living with parents in Hyderabad – no siblings, no grandparents, no cousins who lived nearby. I really longed to be in a big family, full of people.
A month after I entered B.Com., the three of us went to Tirumala. We used to go there once in three or four years. Invariably dad used to become bald and mom used to offer a few strands of her hair. But so far she had not shaved her head there. She told me that I was tonsured there when I was two, then three and again when I was five. When I was nine, she wanted me to again tonsure but I had refused. I refused again when I was twelve. I had refused even to cut a few strands of my hair.
This time, before we set out to Tirumala, parents had tried to pressurise me into shaving off my hair so that I would get back my bum long hair by the time of my marriage, say in about 4 years. They said that this could be my last chance for a gundu (head shave) before my marriage. I again put my foot down and said a firm no. Mom was in tears at my refusal. Finally dad forced me to cut off an inch of my hair there. Dad anyway became a baldy. But the surprise thing was that mom also happily became a baldy for the first time in her married life. She was on cloud nine after coming back as a baldy from Tirumala. She taught in her school with her bare bald head. I just failed to understand as to how women could be happy becoming bald. And as mom herself said, we never had this practice of elderly ladies getting a tonsure. Why mom started it, God only knows. All that she said was she wanted to enjoy it at least once.
During my B.Com. studies, I did well in college but read a lot of English and Telugu novels, most of them steamy or sexy once. I joined a private Bank after my B.Com. Parents started looking for a groom for me immediately after that. I told my mom “Amma, I will not go into nuclear families. I am bored stiff as of now. Look for a family with in-laws. A joint family would be even better.”
Mom tried to convince me that joint families are problematic with some fight or the other. She even said jokingly, “What if they have a practice of family gundu? You are against it but they will want you to do it. Finally it will lead to a fight. Why do you take such risks?” But I did not budge. I assured them that I would manage such things without fighting. My exasperated parents’ search for a groom of my choice went on and on for nearly months.
A month after I joined the Bank, one Rukmini came to that branch on transfer. About six years elder to me, she was a middle level officer and I was made to report to her. Though a strict officer, she was a nice and beautiful lady with many capabilities and also very jovial on a personal level. To my pleasant surprise, Rukmini madam was also fond of ‘dirty’ books and we discussed the books we read and had nice giggles. This brought us close to each other.
Once, I told her that my parents were looking for a groom for me and they were finding it very difficult to meet my demand. She asked what my demand was. I said that I wanted to enter into a joint family where many people were there. I explained to her how I had been bored living virtually alone. A smile crossed her face. She took the details of my parents’ name and address and said that she would help my parents find a suitable groom for me.
Two weeks later, a Sunday, mom told me to get dressed for receiving a prospective groom. The party would come to ‘see’ me. I asked her whether my basic condition of a joint family is met. She said ‘certainly’. She said that the horoscopes had matched very well and if the alliance came through, I would be very lucky to get into that family.
When the groom’s party walked in, I was astonished. It was none other than Rukmini madam’s family! She, her f-i-l Krishnayya, her m-i-l Malati, her husband Jayant, their two kids and her brother-in-law, Sumant, the prospective groom, were there.
We were astonished that while Rukmini was having midback hair, her m-i-l had a boy cut! That too like a man, with machined nape and sides – like the haircut my dad gets! Till then I had never liked short hair on women. But this lady with her man-like haircut did look beautiful!
A few minutes later, Jayant’s younger sister, Pranati, her husband and her three kids also walked in. As soon as mom and Pranati saw each other, both were open mouthed with astonishment for a while. Mom approached Pranati with open arms, hugged her and crooned “Oh, Pra..na…ti!!, ha.. ha.. ha.. The world is small, isn’t it? And you look so nice with your fresh gundu head!” She caressed and kissed Pranati’s gundu head. Pranati also responded to the hug happily saying “Oh, madam! It is your house! I never knew! I am so happy that you are becoming my relative!” All the five of Pranati’s family were freshly bald!
Mom said “You can reserve that ‘madam’ thing to school premises. You can call me ‘aunty’ for now.” Then mom explained the thing to all of us. Mom teaches science in her school and is HOD Science. Pranati teaches English in the same school. Four years ago, when mom walked into the school with her fresh Tirumala gundu, Pranati, who had joined the school a few weeks before that, also walked in with her fresh gundu. The two fresh baldies looked at each other with open mouths, introduced themselves and became good friends. Of course, Pranati being some 25 years younger, mom calls her in singular while Pranati calls her ‘madam’.
Now, Pranati happily flaunted her smooth gundu head without covering it. Mom with a broad smile asked them whether they had gone to Tirumala. A proud and beautifully bald Pranati said caressing her smooth greyish dome “Yes, aunty. Just this morning we returned.”
My mom: “You look really nice, Pranati. Your kids also look pretty this way. You are having a gundu again after four years, isn’t it? Is it some vow? Do you have this female tonsure practice in your house?”
Pranati: “No aunty. We did not have that practice. But a lady well known to me encouraged me to do it once, since it would be so refreshing. So about five years ago, I convinced my in-laws to permit me to do it. They reluctantly agreed. I, my husband and my son got Tirumala gundu. I felt very good and more than that, my m-i-l was so much impressed with my bald beauty that she said that she also would do it once. By next year, my daughter was old enough to be tonsured. I had about 8 inches of hair. My m-i-l convinced my f-i-l that we could have a family gundu along with the child. So the entire family got a Tirumala gundu. M-i-l was very happy, seeing six smooth heads in the family. That was when I had changed my school and we two saw each other freshly bald in the school.
“M-i-l ruled that once in four or five years we should have a family gundu. I happily said yes. So, after four years we had our second family gundu yesterday. My f-i-l and m-i-l are also fully bald. The date had been fixed sometime back. Seeing Radha for Sumant came up suddenly. I proposed to m-i-l to postpone the Tirumala trip saying going to a new house with a fresh bald head would not be appropriate. But mom intervened and shot it down saying ‘Who said it is inappropriate? A Tirumala gundu is always auspicious’. So we decided to come with clean heads” and she giggled caressing her own smooth head.
Mom said with a smile “Your mom is right. Tirumala gundu is always auspicious. May be Lord Venkateshwara’s blessings has been bestowed on this alliance this way. I am very happy, Pranati, that you have come with your gundu head!”
The girl seeing went on well. Their family did not want any dowry, but a girl who would adjust in a joint family. I talked to Sumant. Sumant came across as a nice gentleman. His brother was working in a Central Governmment Lab, while he was working in a private factory. Their dad was retired and mom a housewife. I could continue to work and even send a portion of my earnings to my parents. He only wanted one promise from me – whatever the provocation, I had to react with patience. The joint family should not be broken. I had to adjust and go along.