Radha under pressure to accept family gundu
After the groom’s party left, I asked mom why she commended that baldy Pranati so much. She said “Well, she really looks beautiful to me as a baldy, not only now, even four years ago. And a religious gundu is always auspicious. Third, they are our guests and we should happily welcome them whichever way they are. And when I so much liked my own gundu head 4 years ago, why should I not like Pranati’s bald head now?” I asked her why she did not comment on the boy’s mom’s boy cut. I was astonished at what mom said “Arrey, why should I? She looked very cute that way, much younger than her 60 years. It looked so good on her that I am also getting a desire to get a boy cut like her.”
“Are you not apprehensive that this family may make me also like them, bald or boy cut?”
“I will be the happiest if they are able to make you bald or even a boy cut girl. Anyway, at least by this marriage if you become a baldy once, I will happily do a gundu again.”
At this, a stern dad intervened saying “Look Radha, the family is very good. I don’t mind whether they keep your hair long, short or bald as long as they look after you well and you merge with their family well. You wanted a joint family and with luck we have found a good one. Now, long hair, short hair or no hair, just get along with that family, understood?”
I was floored for the remaining part of the day after listening to my parents’ comments! It simply meant that if my in-laws cajole me to get a gundu like their daughter or a boy cut like Sumant’s mom, my parents would be as happy! For quite some time, I could not digest it. I only hoped that my bum long hair would not be in my m-i-l’s cross hairs. I agreed for the marriage. It would be in about 4 months.
Since Rukmini was to become my relative, the management transferred me to another branch on my request within the next two weeks.
In the interregnum before marriage, I and Sumant met several times and we gradually opened up. I started loving him deeply. The marriage happened. I had been told by Rukku that m-i-l gets her clipper boy cut in a barbershop once in four or five weeks. She had a fresh clipper boy cut a week before the marriage. And she looked really gorgeous with that style in her otherwise traditional clothing, makeup and jewellery. Whether seeing her quite often that way or something else, I started liking her with her boy cut. And if ever she asks me to imitate her style, I had little reason to say no.
The marriage, first night and three day honeymoon went on very well. In under three weeks, I had got fully adjusted to the new house and was really happy about it. All – f-i-l, m-i-l, Jayant, Rukminakka, their two kids – daughter Dyuti and son Prakash – became close to me. Of course, Sumant came out as a loving yet responsible husband. I had reached my dream home.
M-i-l’s boy cut had grown out in those four weeks and needed trimming, I thought. I even said so to her and it was a Thursday evening. But she said that as per their decision, the family would be going to Tirumala, Saturday next week. I was delighted and said ‘Oh, fine’ but internally I became a bit nervous fearing a request to do a gundu there.
M-i-l said “Radha, ever since Rukku came into this house, a new tradition has been started. We go to Tirumala about once a year and all the gents and the kids get gundu there. I hope you do not mind Sumant becoming a baldy so soon after marriage”.
Well, this was news to me but then gents becoming bald at a religious place like Tirumala is ok with me. So I thought that if Sumant becomes a baldy, there should be no problem and I was sure he would look handsome with a gundu head. And I said so to my m-i-l.
But what she said next really floored me. She said “And for the past three years, I also get a gundu every year with the gents and so I keep my hair a boy cut at other times. This time, Rukku is also going to get gundu along with me. It would be fine if you also get a gundu so that it would be a full family gundu.” She was requesting with a smiling face.
So the expected bomb of shaving off my head was exploded albeit disguised as a request. M-i-l, Rukku and myself becoming baldies! Oh, no. How would those two look with no hair! I had seen a bald mom and then a bald Pranati. But now these two ladies also? Rukku becoming a baldy and going to office! It was hard to imagine.
As for myself, in spite of what mom and dad had told me on getting along the requested hair style, I had yet to digest the thought of cutting my hair, let alone shave it all off. But, m-i-l had already requested me to get a gundu. A part of me wanted to shout ‘Nooooo!’ but better sense prevailed. So I said “Attagaru (addressing my m-i-l), all this looks new to me. I have never even trimmed my hair in my adult life. I need to think about it. I will tell you tomorrow.” She said “Ok, dear. Take your time, but do not disappoint us.”
That night before we went to bed, Sumant spoke to me.
Sumant: “Radha, what have you thought about mom’s request?”
I: “No, dear. I becoming a baldy! No way.”
S: “Oh, come on, babe. Why are you behaving like a sissy? Nowadays, there are the mod girls who cut their hair into all types of fashion. And there are the traditional ladies who don’t think twice before happily shaving off their head in a religious place and going about happily with their beautiful bald heads. And look at my mom! She traditionally gets a gundu once a year and also gets a mod looking boy cut! What a nice blend! And Rukku vadina so happily pulls off her gundu head in office. Why are you hesitating? But I really hoped for something else.”
I: “Hoped for what?”
S: “Listen carefully. It was about six years ago that Jayant got married to Rukku vadina. We were all very happy to have got a nice girl into our house. I for one was really happy to have got a sis-in-law like Rukku vadina.”
S: “She taught me many serious things of family and personal behaviour during the peak of my engineering studies. But for her, I would have become a wasteful boy. My dad and mom also were very happy about her. She was down to earth, polite but assertive when required. She changed many bad things in the house deftly within a short time. Three weeks after her marriage, mom said that in a week’s time all would proceed to Tirumala and ALL would become bald!”
S: “I and Jayant were as much aghast at mom’s words as you are now. Jayant became angry and said that such things are not allowed in this house and if she really wanted to do it, she could go back to her mom’s place. But Rukku vadina was unbelievably calm. After the histrionics of Jayant died down, Rukku vadina again patiently explained to Jayant the rationale behind her vow. She had chicken pox a few weeks before her Plus2 exams and her parents were worried. She herself had suggested that if she recovered, passed and got entry to B.Com., she would offer hair in Tirumala. Her parents reluctantly agreed. And she did recover, got good marks in Plus2 and got a seat in B.Com. She happily got a gundu in Tirumala soon after and it was one of her best experiences. She says that since then, she has become a votary of female gundu.
“Three years later, a big tragedy struck her family. Rukku had just joined the Bank. Her mom was diagnosed with a brain tumor which had to be removed by surgery. She was hesitant to undergo the surgery. But Rukku convinced her that God would take care. Since her mom’s head had anyway to be shaved for the surgery, on Rukku’s insistence, the family went to Tirumala and Rukku’s parents and her younger brother got their heads shaved. Rukku at that time took a vow that soon after her mom became normal and had enough hair on her head, she (Rukku) would offer her hair in Tirumala. Her mom told her not to take that vow since she is of marriageable age. But Rukku said that her mom’s life is more important than her own marriage and took the vow.
“The surgery happened and her mom became normal quite fast. She had about six inches of hair in about a year after the surgery. By then, Rukku’s maternal uncle had brought a few marriage alliances. One of them was Jayant’s. Rukku wanted to tell us about her vow. But her uncle said ‘No Rukku, this is one of the best alliances. If we say about your vow now, they may unnecessarily reject you. Tell them after the marriage.’ But Rukku is not the one given for such cheatings. So unknown to her uncle and parents, she explained to my mom about the vow and the reason behind it. Mom liked her honesty and also her sense of living for others. So she readily agreed to honour her vow a month after the marriage. She had told my dad but not Jayant, Pranati or myself.
“Listening to all what Rukku vadina said, Jayant felt cheated by our parents and demanded why he was not told earlier. Dad told him ‘what would you have done, dear, if we had told you? Would you have said no to this girl’ and the two laughed at him. Jayant realised that if he had been told, he would have wrongly rejected Rukku and missed an excellent wife. He now smiled sheepishly. And after some cajoling by mom, he accepted for the family gundu.”