I spotted the first one, four summers ago, while standing groggily at the morning sink. I was thirty (god! I’m obsessed with my age). I roused fully, as soon as I saw it. I leaned into the mirror as I pointed it to my girlfriend and told her excitedly, “Hey, look what you brought into my life!” She rolled her eyes and went back to brushing. She knew my sarcasm too well by now. It was my first grey hair (or White? Silver?).
I wasn’t exactly pleased. Of course, I knew it was inevitable. I just didn’t expect a grey hair to turn up exactly in my thirty-first year, like clockwork.
I grew up being told that my grandfather, on my mother’s side, had a fully white mane on the day of his wedding, “not a strand of black” my grandmother always recalled, for the nth time. He was only 29. His children, too, started greying in their twenties. It was a family lore— ‘Everyone is going to get their greys early, hahaha!” Many members even took pride in it, as if it were some sort of a precocious accomplishment at a young age. Probably, it helped them deal with it. But the pride came from how well my grandfather pulled off his greys. He always managed to look extremely slick with his kempt mop of fine silver strands.
When my grandfather passed on, my mother—who was 46 then and had just started dyeing her hair a month before he died— stopped, as a tribute to him. I loved that as a teenager; “what a weird ‘tribute’”, I had thought. I didn’t know you could honour someone’s life by quietly doing your own thing in private, without announcing it to the neighbours or on prime time TV to the world.
But I still didn’t understand what all the fuss about grey and black was, then.
When I noticed my first few strands of white, I didn’t make much of them. One, it wasn’t very noticeable, and two, I liked to think that vanity was something I had left far far behind me. My teenage obsession with my looks and my eternal adolescent quest that I doggedly sought the answers for, “Am I good looking?”—had disgusted me. It made me sick how well society rewarded that enquiry.
So sick that I decided to grow my hair. And trained myself to pass mirrors without looking at them, because I would get terrified when I did.
Over the past four years my greys have, ever so slightly, been making cameo appearances in a thriller that has been my hairdo. And this past week I noticed quite a few of them. There seems to have been a sudden surge in the last year. I wonder if it is a viral infection of a certain kind... that has brought the world to its knees (chin, actually).
It’s difficult to come to terms with greying without the wisdom that was promised. Why doesn’t the wisdom, also, suddenly appear one fine morning when you are swaying at the sink, waiting to become fully alive, in your chuddies and you garble, “where the fuck did I leave the toothpaste now?"? And your person replies—
“wow honey, you sound so wise today.”