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  • Grandma had a theory. In fact she had many. One was about hair and women. She used to say that if you don’t tie up your hair neatly you would soon become a loose (disreputable) woman! Loose women leave their hair loose (untied/free).

    I used to meet Grandma once a year for about 15-20 days during the school summer vacation. It was awesome to be spoiled by her love and smiles. I remember her eyes twinkling with happiness the moment we (my brother and I) ran to her arms. When I was with her I would tie up my long hair in two pony tails or braid it. I would wash it every day before going to temple with her and other women in the family. I did whatever she told me. When we got back with our parents to the big city – things changed. I never followed her rules around hair thing. I love to leave my hair untied. It feels natural and normal to me. I used to braid it for school as I didn’t have an option there and I hated it. I only tie it up in kitchen for hygiene reasons. But that’s it.

    As I child the idea of a ‘loose woman’ didn’t make sense to me. I assumed it was something bad and so I should follow what Grandma said but in my heart I didn’t like to confirm to things that I did not understand. So I had two sets of behavioural patterns – one set for when I was with my grandparents and the other (rebellious and non-confirming) when I was with my parents. There was also the long drama about wearing Bindi on my forehead. Grandma used to say do it to be a good Hindu woman. I use to make all kinds of excuses for not wearing Bindi too. I think I was not ready to be a labelled and packaged as a Hindu if I didn’t fully understand what it meant. And that is another story.

    For Grandma I was a difficult grandchild, someone who never confirmed to her ideas of how a Hindu girl should be. I caused her too much worry. My mother on the other hand was Ok with my ideas and questions. She always gave me a chance to think through things and do what felt fine for my heart and mind. I don’t remember her forcing me to do anything – well, if she did try to force me to confirm to something but then we always tried to find a middle path. With Grandma it was a simmering war that kept escalating every year as I grew up. I got estranged from her along the way. I don’t know if at some point she stopped loving me for who I was becoming as a person. She used to say she wanted me to be happy. I am happy Grandma.

    When she passed away I was thousands of miles away from her. I didn’t get chance to be with her. I don’t know if she thought of me in her last days. She was surrounded by her loving family. I hope she thought of me. I miss her. I still do after all those years. If I get to re-live those times with her again, I would perhaps do the very same things but I would tell her how much I love her, more than I did. She grew up in a world where women didn’t have the right to express their opinion. She learnt that confirming to customs was the easiest way to escape punishment and troubles. She didn’t have the freedom to think or to be. Even then she allowed her daughter to be a strong, independent woman. I am her daughter’s child.

    I leave my hair loose.
    I don’t care about labels.
    I am fine, I am happy!

    Grandma, please don’t worry about me.
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