July 2, 2008

The missing hair

I started a writing workshop 3 weeks ago. As part of this, we have a short session of in-class writing, lasting about 15 minutes. A topic is given and off you go. Give your imagination a whirl and start writing. After 15 minutes, whoever wants to is encouraged to share it with the class for feedback. This is not mandatory and one has the option of not sharing it.

I did ok on the first one, I thought; though I could not write more than 100 words. The topic: "Your name." After listening to a few really good pieces by other class-mates, my confidence was abysmal and I did not share it. Things got worse the next week. Given a set of 7 totally unrelated words and asked to weave it into a short story, I failed miserably. I perhaps used 4 of the 7 words as I struggled through the 15 minutes amid mind-numbing humidity and heat that day. Later, waiting for the bus to arrive, a plot came to mind to finish the storyline, while using 2 more words. The entire thing is still not written up though and I doubt I will get back to it.

The 3rd class of the 9 week workshop was today and I was surprised by my effort today. So surprised that I am ready to share the piece as-is i.e. as written in a hurry in a 15 minute span. No corrections. No changes. Whilst this does not reflect the whole range of my writing abilities
or mean that I can write well, it does give me some confidence that I can write something. The class received it well but more importantly I feel good about it too. If I didn't, I am cynical enough to have doubted their words of praise. I am particularly glad this came out sounding ok since I have struggled for two weeks now trying to work on the for-home assignment (which was due today and I did not submit) - a fiction or memoir piece of 5-8 double-spaced pages about a family secret, myth, or scandal. I have yet to get beyond line one.

Anyways, for now...here is today's piece. If you read it, please do comment. It is a personal piece. It is a true story, with only minor embellishments, if you can call it that.



The missing hair

It was a loud yell that woke my father up from his afternoon siesta. I had just stepped out of the bathroom, and my mother could see that my hairline seemed rather uneven. We were visiting my grandparents over summer vacation and although my father usual ensured that my hair was kept short by taking me to the barber every three weeks, this time over a month had passed by without a haircut and my hair had grown relatively long and unkempt. But it was obvious that on one side, above my right eye, there was a clump of hair that was missing.

And so my mother screamed: "Come here! What happened to your hair?" My attempt to run away innocently claiming that all was well was thwarted by my father waking up and giving me a long, albeit drowsy, stare. I froze still. There was a moment where I considered running away to the bedroom upstairs and locking myself up. What transpired next is only a fuzzy memory but somehow something I said gave my father the impression that someone cut my hair when I was out playing with the boys in the village that morning. Surprisingly, they seemed to believe this story. Much hell was raised about how a lad, all of 9 years old and born and raised in the big city, had let the country bumpkin kids take advantage of me like that.

The truth, while fleeting, is still crystal clear even after almost three decades. But I hesitated and shied away from it then and suffered through many a shameful tirade over the years as the story of the missing hair was discussed amongst family members.

This year, after my father's untimely death, as the head was being shorn by a barber, per Hindu customs, I recalled this incident of the missing hair. It is probably of little consequence now but I wish I had told my father the truth then. It was I, tired of the long hair in the oppressive summer heat, that had attempted to cut my hair using my father's pair of scissors that morning. A little snip here, a little there, too short, too long, and soon enough, it was uneven and a large clump of my hair was missing on one side. Not knowing what to do I ran into the shower, hoping that when I came out magically all would be well.

I wish my dad knew that his son was not stupid enough to let some other kids snip his hair. But he was stupid enough to attempt it himself!

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