The long and short of a hairy tale

All those who look at my hair today would never believe it even if I swore till I turned blue that I once had long hair. Not just long but veritable Rapunzel tresses.  I must have been one of the lucky brides who could flaunt her own long hair without resorting to artificial means to lengthen it.

When I was in primary school, so thick and long my single plait used to be that apparently I looked like a dwarf from behind. For some obscure reasoning which said that when hair is split into two braids the family will split, my mother never allowed me to wear two plaits. If that reasoning were true, we’d all be living in one big loving family and scattered over the country and the world, but that’s besides the point. So single plait it was and was done by my older sisters. True to the practice in those days, my hair used to be well oiled and plaited tightly with a ribbon at the end! When the second oldest sister had got married, the next one took over the job. I was seven at that time.

Being a teenager herself and not blessed with such long tresses, she took it upon herself to take care of mine with a fierce possessiveness. So much so that she admonished me not to touch or ‘meddle’ with it. She would herself undo the plait, oil and plait it quickly back before I could surreptitiously look and admire it. If she caught me doing it, she would scold me for ‘nazar lagaoing’. It was my hair, for heavens’ sake! But there was no arguing with her.

Every Friday, she would apply til (gingelli) oil and then wash it with shikakai powder, taking care to see that I didn’t pull it forward to see how long it was. Nor would she plait it loose to allow it to dry, as all the other girls of my class did. How I longed to have it that way! But she would pat it dry with a towel and then plait it a little less tight than usual. There was this special plait with five strands instead of the customary three, which allowed it to be spread out, facilitating in its drying. Spoilsport!

The only other person allowed to touch my hair was my mother or other sisters. I remember my landlady’s daughter (a little older than my sis) who begged to plait my hair once but she never got the chance. I don’t know what excuses my sis made to her! But the same hair that she so lovingly cared for also was an instrument to express her displeasure at me, whenever she was angry with me. She would yank and pull and mutter under her breath as she plaited it on such days.

All till the day she got married. When the time came for her to leave, all I was asking her was, ‘Who will plait my hair?’ I don’t know if I was crying because she was leaving home and me or because my hair was orphaned!

But wait! Shouldn’t I have been happy that I could anything I wanted — leave it loose, touch it and admire its beauty without her scolding me for spoiling it? But funnily I didn’t want to do any of those things. Isn’t it the contrary nature of humans that they long for something so badly that when they finally get it, it is kind of an anticlimax and is not interesting anymore? So was my case.

Picture 107

I was 14 and had no clue as to how to comb my hair, leave alone plait it! Back in those days, I liked my hair with not a strand out of place so that I didn’t once have to tuck a single rogue strand in. My sis knew the exact tightness that made me feel comfortable. I untangled the hair, combed, plaited and then undid it before beginning all over again – for ‘n’ number of times till it was late for school and I left in tears, with the straggly strands hanging out of the plait and the uneven thickness of the braid that mocked at me. All day long I pulled and tucked at my hair, unable to concentrate on the lessons, feeling uncomfortable and close to tears by the end of the school day.

Fortunately mother washed my hair – I would never have got it clean by myself. For the first time in my young life, I could leave it loose and admire the length which came below my knee (there! I finally knew how long it was!). But no, I hated the hair flying all over the place and making me look like a she devil. Oh, how I wanted the five strand plait that kept it in place, but I couldn’t do it myself so I managed a loose plait, like the one I used to wish for, only now I didn’t want it anymore. At school the oohs and aahs of the  younger kids and their loud whispers about the akka (elder sister) with loooong hair made me proud but also scared of the ‘nazar’ that my sis had warned me against.

So began the running battle between me and my hair. I did all I could to spite it and vice versa. I stopped oiling it, didn’t give it the mandatory trimming to keep split ends off and began using shampoos instead of the herbal shikakai mixture my sis so lovingly used. I pulled it into a bun on top my head, left it loose, pinned it up and carelessly plaited it. For its part, my hair never failed to make me feel uncomfortable, no matter what style I chose. Obviously it hated me for treating it with such disdain and vowed to get back at me. As I grew older, I didn’t colour or dye it, proving that ‘I am not worth it’ and that I didn’t ‘Take care’.

And then my headaches drove me to cut it short. I refused to look at the locks that lay on the floor – a final parting of ways. For all the love-hate relationship we shared, I couldn’t see it all leave me. But it wasn’t about to forgive me for the latest slight.

So, long or short, the battle continued. It still drives me nuts to keep it groomed and looking neat. The hairstylists keep changing the style according to their moods, leaving me at my wit’s end. I sometimes wonder if it is in league with them. I am thoroughly sick and tired. Oh for the days of my childhood!

Image courtesy:  simpsons.wikea.com

67 comments

  1. Oh BM, did you ever realize what a beauty you were with that hair? And that pic, you look sooooo beautiful…your sister is a godess…while I am a villianee for my younger one…:p…she has long hair and I would nag her to death to cut her hair, b cos all her concentration was on her hair and not her studies…once when she came to visit us here, S and me were ragging her that we would cut her hair and guess what she did that night? She slept with her plait tucked in her sweater that night…:D beautiful hairy tale…am so sad really…you know why….:(

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    1. Blush, blush. I was just a plain looking person with a long hair, that’s all 🙂 And my sis was no angel. She would settle scores with me by pulling and yanking the hair while she combed and wouldn’t let me touch it! and don’t feel sad. Everything is transient in this world, even hair!

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  2. Saw you in the last indiblogger meet , remember?
    Your face hasn’t changed a bit , the same calm a serene aura….hair is another story for me.
    I want something which needs no grooming and that is next to impossible …so hung somewhere in between.

    You had such loving sisters to do all of that for you. And you hair loved you too 🙂

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    1. We met, did we? I am so sorry, but that meet had been full of distraction for me, what with my granddaughter being there and me coming late. Hope we can meet leisurely this time. You are coming, aren’t you?

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  3. I had long hair too and went through the same thing… except that i didnt have any sisters, so it was my mom who plaited my hair! and when we went to my grandparents place, my aunts took turns – one used to plait it loose, and another so tight that i used to joke that it would just be the same even after a week!!! and she was the one i ran to every time we were setting out on a journey to some temple or the other! plaited so tightly and laden with flowers, that was the only time it stayed that way after hours in rickety buses going from one temple to another!!! another aunt was one who tried out styles, and experimented!and then when i was about 15, we shifted our house, and my hair began falling.. maybe it was the water change, maybe it was the fact that i no longer had time to pamper my hair, since college was far off and i had to leave home before dawn everyday! even sundays were busy, so the hair took a backseat! and yet, i refused to cut it off! i still had waist long hair when, last diwali i went to tirupati and gave away a huge chunk of it to the Lord!!! imagine going to a parlour for the first time at the age of 35 and seeing the look on her face!!! now its growing again and i am wondering whether to cut it again or leave it to grow!!

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    1. That sounds so typical of a large family where each one follows a different style for doing the hair! I can so understand the need for tight plaits while going by bus. I used to favour it for the simple reason that it meant a neat look, even if it meant that the head looked like a round ball with the ears sticking out 😀 you should let it grow back if you have the time and patience to care for long hair. It does look beautiful but if it lacks thickness, it makes more sense to trim it to look good.

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  4. I have gone and blown my image and cover, have I? 😀 It was not customary to cut one;s hair in those days. Only ‘modern’ people as my mother would call them cut their hair short. I am sure your mom must have looked a beautiful bride. I just posted this as a lark not worried about the contest at all. See, no links either!

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  5. Wow! You look so beautiful although its now so hard to imagine you without a belan in hand 😛 Thanks so much for posting the picture and you had such long hair.. The photograph reminds me of my mom’s black and white photograph in the family album. She had such long tresses too, even in her wedding photo, all braided and decorated with flowers. Absolutely lovely post, Best of wishes for the contest 🙂

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  6. You look lovely in that B&W photograph. Very timeless.
    What else can you expect from a photographer to get stuck with a photograph in that beautiful post. Oh how you make trivial stuff so interesting.
    Can we have a look at the hair now.. pleez pleez.

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    1. Trust a photographer to notice the photo alone 🙂 Reality is always interesting, isn’t it? Why my profile picture defines my ‘now’ image 😀

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  7. First time seeing your picture! You are so very beautiful!!!

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    1. Hey Giribala, that was the Cybernag over three decades ago. Today my profile picture looks much better than I do 😀

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      1. I knew that was an old picture. Once a beauty always a beauty! All of us get old. Btw, I color my hair.

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        1. See, you are ‘worth it!’ as Ash would say 🙂

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  8. Lovely post and superlative hair 🙂

    Keep writing….

    Cheers!
    Indigenou

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  9. I had long, but not very long hair. But they were really thick. My daughter inherited them. I remember once during a train journey, a co-passenger asked her if they were real. She was not even 10 yrs old at that time. But was so furious, that she refused to talk to her through out the journey.
    Unfortunately, both of us have short and thin hair now 😦

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    1. How typical of a child to feel angry at someone who didn’t believe in her hair! It is very rare that thickness remains as we grow older. cutting it short helps in masking the thinness. My mother still has long hair at 90 but it is very thin now.

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  10. Farida Rizwan · · Reply

    Did my comment get posted or not?

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    1. This was the only comment that I got. Would you please mind posting it again?

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  11. Oh so beautiful ur hair was..now show this pic to the people who wudnt believe you..They would all go wow…

    Well, I have a similar Hairy tale to share – http://zradar.wordpress.com/2011/11/10/the-hairy-fairy-tale/ Please have a look…

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  12. Nuttie Natters · · Reply

    Firstly – i love love your picture you look so gorgeous!!! And your hair your hair! sigh

    I love the way you write Z – it actually takes u back to “those” days – when i was a kid i had long thick mallu hair and wanted nothing more than the silky thin hair which i could leave open and not feel hot and not look like some sort of She-devil !

    My hair is still thick – i still wish at times that my hair was thinner. People (read my mother) say that i will rue my statements 🙂

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    1. Seeing you here after a long time, Nut! Missed you so. Your mother is right. We don’t appreciate stuff till we have it. Like my being slim. I wanted to look portly and when I put on weight, I yearn for those slim days. But I am not sure I would like to have that long hair back. Dunno if I could manage it any better than those long days ago 🙂

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  13. Even I had plaiting woes as a child. I could never plait it quite right and Mom would have to do it – and she would make sure I looked so prim and proper that kids in school would get the she’s-a-plain-Jane impression from afar. 😀
    You had really long hair… wow!

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    1. Curiously as a kid and even a teenager, I liked the tight plait because it kept all the hair in place, leaving me free of the tension of tucking the strands in. Fortunately for me, that was the time Jaya Bhaduri (Bachchan) had come into films and the long hair and plain face all made me feel good in a contrary way. 🙂

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  14. Those hairy days! One of my chitti even now sports a below the knee length long hair and I always wonder how she manages it! As far me, mottai is my destiny that I love to sport, better to be completely bald than hide the baldness 😀 unlike my bro who does all the trick in the world to hide his receding hair lines!

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    1. It is possible to manage long hair if you are not rushing out at 8 in the morning to catch the bus/local. I used to with all that, but when the headaches got the better of me, I cut it off. As for being mottai is concerned, anything that is natural is fine, mottai or a rich crop of hair. It is less tension that way.

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  15. You looks wonderful in the pic , and your hair looks strong and tall in pic .

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    1. Thanks 🙂

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  16. Wow. 🙂 You look stunning in that pic! Hair which flows below the Knee! I couldn’t imagine myself with such long lustrous tresses.

    Lovely Post. I wish I had the time, patience to grow my hair.. I just about manage to let it grow past my shoulders.

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    1. Don’t you fret about short hair. In today’s world, only those who live a life of leisure or models can afford to have long hair. It is so time consuming to care for it. One of my nieces had very long and thick hair too before she cut if for convenience. And do you know what? My mother, who never got used to my short hair said that I had ‘influenced’ the younger generation to follow suit 🙂 What a corrupt influence! 😀

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      1. Haha… Yes. Why fret, when we all know that its “hair today, gone tomorrow”.

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        1. Hair need not all go, thanks to all those new fangled things like hair-weaving and all. But yes, why lose one’s sleep over something so fleeting 🙂

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  17. Hi, Loved your post and your picture with your long tresses. You talked so much about your hair but what about your eyes, they are absolutely lovely and the way you are staring at the camera, kind of half shy and half inquisitive – like a child woman – superb!!

    Talking about hair, did you know (you must have known) that in many mythologies, hair plays a very significant part? For men usually it is their strength and for women, it usually signifies their honour (remember Draupadi keeping her hair loose till she bathed it in Dushashan’s blood? many other examples in greek mythology as well). In Islam I believe hair is supposed to be the best part of a woman’s beauty and hence keeping the head covered, etc, etc.

    what I loved most about your post is that it is not only about your hair but also about your sister(s), your mother and about your childhood.

    want more posts on you Zephyr!!

    love

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    1. Seriously Sharbori, you make me blush. Thanks for the lovely comment on the pic. You have given such a lot of info on hair! I never knew about hair being the honour for women. I have heard that sardars don’t cut their hair because it signifies strength. Childhood memories are wonderful aren’t they? Did you read the post ‘Drums and dread?’ about Durga puja during my childhood? You will like that one. 🙂

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      1. I agree with Sharbori – your expression is priceless. There is innocence, vulnerability, shyness, and of course, inquisitiveness – all rolled into one expression. You have such big, expressive eyes; you should have learnt dance. You would have excelled at abhinaya with those pretty eyes.

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        1. Me and dance? That is rich! I can’t do a step to save my life. The expression is all because I didn’t want to look up but my brother called out to me and then clicked when I did 🙂 That’s why the reluctance in the eyes.

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  18. Beautiful post and you have awesome hair 🙂

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    1. Thanks rantingindian, for both compliments. 🙂

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  19. Did you really have to put up that stunning pic of yours? It was so hard to concentrate on your post – Hair today gone tomorrow. When it comes to nostalgia nobody can do it better that you. Imagine a girl going through her rebellious phase and she takes it out on her gorgeous tresses!

    And you have to make L&M write his version. Did he love your hair as much as your sisters? Did he quietly admire his gorgeous wife?

    Please, Please ask him to?

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    1. I can only be nostalgic about the hair. But even if I did have it, I doubt I would have been able to care for it. I did vent my frustrations on the hair those days. Poor thing. Ahem….the reaction of the L&M to the before and after of my hairy tale? Sometime later, maybe. Suffice to say that he loved the hair, not sure about ‘gorgeous’ wife bit though. 😀

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  20. Great post! And I am so jealous because I never had very long hair. Even when I didn’t cut it, it never grew more than waist-length.

    Loved your description of the care that your sister took of your hair. You are very lucky to have such a loving sibling!

    Do post a photograph of your current hairstyle! 🙂

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    1. Now you want a photo of the ‘after’? No way! But I look something like my profile picture if it is of any help 🙂 I am indeed lucky to have loving siblings and had the best of times being the last of six siblings 🙂

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  21. Lovely pic. I love long hair, but I really don’t understand how to maintain it. My babhi used to have looong tresses but always had a grudge because her mom never allowed to cut it, But after marriage she was allowed to do whatever she wanted and she cut it short. We lamented but she rejoiced 🙂
    As for me I am going to open a ‘wig shop’. Wigs made from my ‘fallen’ hair, of course. 😛

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    1. My mother was against cutting the hair too, but she used to trim it a few days after new moon like A-Kay’s mother 🙂 I know how mothers are: Do whatever you want after your marriage!’ they say. And god forbid the married home is as restrictive, then the girl has had it for life 😦

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  22. AlkaGurha · · Reply

    What lovely tresses…Do they ever end?
    I know , ravages of time do take a toll on the hair…I miss my thick oiled plates too….but they were not as long as yours..Lovely pic BTW.
    And you are worth it….. irrespective of the length or thickness of your raven locks. Salt and pepper hair looks great too…

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    1. They do…. a couple of inches below the knees. Make no mistake. I love my salt and pepper hair. In fact the family and friends will tell you how much I looked forward to it. Thanks for the comment on the pic. I have been having misgivings about the posting the pic but Purba has admonished me not to think of removing it, so I let it be 🙂

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  23. Awww……that’s such a sweet post !
    Wanna see yr picture as Rapunzel !:))

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    1. Posted one. have a look and don’t be shocked out of your wits. 🙂

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      1. hey you look pretty as ever…love that softness about ya ! gorgeous hair…so enviable !
        who’s that you’re carrying ? looks like ya !:))

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        1. was so taken up by your picture that I totally overlooked reading the caption below it !:))
          that’s your nephew….

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        2. Aww you guys make me blush big time. That was aaaaaaaages ago and at that age even a she-devil looks good as they say in Tamil. 😀 Thanks for the effusive praise 🙂

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  24. You all lucky people with nice long thick hair atleast sometime in your lives! I have been managing my few tresses wtih the utmost care I can manage, though it still won’t match the gentleness mum used to handle it with. One hair breaking was a heart break for her and mum used to brush it for atleast a half hour till I either got fed up or woke up from my sitting stance! Now that I am on my own, I totally miss that just like you did!

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    1. I can so imagine the nice feeling of getting your hair brushed! Mmmm, it would have me nodding. I had to stand since the hair would lie on the floor for a good foot, if I sat down and she couldn’t comb it properly. The best thing for hair is to lead a tension free life, but is it possible today?

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  25. You had hair till your knees *Faints* R would have fallen in love with you and never left you ever :):)

    I had nice hair till I got R…*Gah to R*

    now its just a few strands here or there, threatening to leave me as soon as possible 😦

    I told RD, I will be completely bald by the time I am 40 🙂

    your sister is so cute na 🙂

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    1. If R sees me now, she will say, ‘you are a different aunty,’ and turn her nose up at me 🙂 Poor R, don’t blame her for your loss of hair. You must not have listened to your mom/grandmom and eaten the stuff they told you to. What did RD say when you gave him the ultimatum? ‘Jaan, I will love you even if you are bald?’ 😀 (If he didn’t say that, tell him I will come after him with the belan 😀 )

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  26. fabulous write!!!
    loved it!!

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  27. Appa was from the old school and never let me cut my hair apart from the trimming that amma did 2 days (or was it 3?, I forget) after ammavasai, so I had long hair (not as long as yours though) till almost my thigh. I remember for dance performances, I hardly needed the extensions, although I would still use it as I fancied it with the kunjalam 🙂

    Of course, after I moved out for studies and work, hair care was hardly given any importance and the love-hate relationship continues till date.

    As many folks above has commented, would love to see a picture of you with long hair. Actually make it any picture of you 🙂

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    1. I paid heed to all the comments and added a pic of mine but seem to have opened a floodgate of comments. Wonder if it was a mistake 😛 In today’s pollution choked world, when one is run off one’s feet trying to get through the day, I think it makes sense to have short hair, unless of course you have the time and loving sisters like I did 🙂

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  28. Till ur knee.. 😦 i never had that much.

    Last year i watched Tangled and taking extra care. With studies n hectic work culture, its getting real tough 🙂 But a near thigh is a good length for these days i guess.

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    1. If you have that long hair, it is wonderful in this day and age. I am sorry, I don’t know what Tangled is about. Can you enlighten me? 🙂

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      1. I think Tangled is an animation movie loosely based on Rapunzel. You can find more details here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tangled

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        1. I will look it up. But Archana has warned me to watch it alone sans the L&M and the Brats. wonder why? 🙂

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  29. Would love to see you in long hair. It sounds itself so exotic.
    Its something about long hair that is quite a temptation and also with the current lot of hair products its only reducing the quality of quantity of whatsoever

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    1. you know one of the things that the L&M liked about me before we got married was the long hair 🙂 It is increasingly hard to take care of long hair in today’s hurly-burly life, not to speak of the havoc pollution plays on it. I can’t find any photo of mine as a kid with long hair 😦

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  30. Loved this “hairy” tale of yours. I, too, had long hair till I was about 20 and in a fit of experimentation I cut it off and my hair was never the same again—in length or thickness or texture. While I am not so nostalgic about it, my mother gets into a “when you had long hair …” spiel, especially on my bad hair days. Incidently, nearly every day is a bad hair day for me 😦

    PS: Why don’t you post a pic of you and your long hair?

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    1. It has been bad hair day every day for me for four decades now 😦 my mother never let me cut my hair and even when I did so late in my life, she was not happy, still is not happy 🙂 I don’t have any pic of my as a kid with long hair, only the tightly pulled back hair 🙂 If I find the bride photo with long hair, I will post it.

      Like

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