Missing the crowning glory

Missing the crowning glory

Photo for representation only

Lt Gen RS Sujlana (retd)

Androgenetic alopecia or baldness is a normal ageing process, early for some, late for others. Most accept it gracefully, but for many it is distressing, like goes the confession, “If I were to tell you my hair loss experience was easy, that would be a lie; there were many nights that I would just sit up and cry; this disease almost took my self-esteem; I wonder and question why did it have to be me?”

As life passes, the acceptance of baldness passes through phases. It can be a style or just a thrill during the young days, as was evident when we were still under training at the NDA over half a century ago. The flash points for the baldness style were two — first was Yul Brynner, a Russo-American actor who shaved off his head for the movie ‘King and I’. His transformed look struck the box office and made him a heart-throb. The second was the ‘Gong Man’, the opening trademark of Rank Films, which depicted a muscular man striking a huge gong producing a deep resonant sound. Gong men were especially selected, like the famous former heavyweight champion, ‘Bombardier’ Billy Wells. However, during our times, it was Ken Richmond, an Olympic bronze medallist at Helsinki in 1952. Their macho images endured with us.

Once a term, each battalion displayed their entertainment skills. It was keenly contested and the opening act had to be impressive. One such enactment was reminiscent of the Yul Brynner-Gong Man look. The NDA gong man was a head shaved Cadet Thapar, winner of the coveted Mister NDA title.

Shaving off the head to acquire a smooth pate then became in vogue. The campus was flooded with Yul Brynners, until it was banned and the fashion saw an immediate end. The crew cut returned and remained till our commissioning. Everyone wanted a well-groomed hairstyle, till nature stepped in and hair droppings took over. Many didn’t relish the idea of stepping into the bald category and ventured to hide their pate. The easiest was to let the hair on the side grow and then comb them across to camouflage the growing baldness.

Friends with a keen eye and a continued good crop of hair and Sikhs (well-covered hair with the turban or patka) had a field day, pulling the legs of the not-so-lucky ones.

Gradually, most reconciled to reality, but a few tried hair transplantation, not very successfully though. Life takes a turn and the current pandemic has laid many hidden heads bare. We friends decided to meet over Skype every evening for a general chat. Dress was casual and we Sikhs turned up sans turbans and patkas. Reality dawned as our non-Sikh friends had a good laugh but as good course-mates, we decided that, “Heads that shine are ‘oh so fine,’ no hair to fly when wind is high…no brushes or pocket combs and many ladies, I’ve heard it said, are fond of the old chrome dome!”

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