Hair, There and Everywhere

J.K. Rowling’s The Casual Vacancy could be banned in India if Sikhs are truly affronted by her words. It is all about the teasing of Sukhvinder, a surgeon’s daughter in the novel and the reference to her as a “hairy man-woman” and “mustachioed yet large-mammaried”.

Avtar Singh Makkar, head of India’s Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee, told the Daily Telegraph that Rowling’s negative descriptions were “a slur on the Sikh community”. He is additionally quoted as saying, “Even if the author had chosen to describe the female Sikh character’s physical traits, there was no need for her to use provocative language, questioning her gender. This is condemnable.” A representative for J.K. Rowling’s publishers Hachette, however, has been quick to point out that the offending remarks in the book were made by Sukhvinder’s bully. So will the explanation be enough to calm the waters?

I’m not wading into the fray. I do want to talk about female facial hair in Indian women, though. (My protagonist in my newly completed young adult novel suffers terribly for being a hairy Indian girl among hairless British friends.) See, the thing is, Indian women can turn quite prickly and defensive on the subject, particularly when broached by someone without facial (or body) hair. In fact, to put it simply:

  1. We Asian (Indian, that is) women know all about body hair
  2.  In fact, we’ve probably known all about it from about the age of seven.
    1. Knowing about it doesn’t mean that we are happy about it. Our smiles for the world mean something entirely different.
    2. In fact, it would be rare to find an Indian girl smiling over her discovery of chin hair (or worse).
  3. Mothers and grandmothers tend to ignore the problem. Their remedy of a paste of chickpea flour mixed with milk and a pinch of turmeric and sandalwood or rosewater as a traditional rub on the skin, will only go so far. If you never believed in fairies, you won’t believe in this, either.
  4. It sucks that mothers and grandmothers were never as hairy. They smugly claim they grew up in more enlightened times when women used herbal products, not chemicals in soaps and shampoos.
  5. The only sympathy you can therefore expect from mothers and grandmothers is, “Yes, you are (incredibly) hairy, but look what lovely thick, long, sleek and silky head hair God gave you.”

Laser treatment is a risky option for many Indian women. Something to do with our high levels of pigmentation. Basically the original no win situation. So in the meanwhile, we bravely trudge to Sweetie’s Hair and Beauty Parlour, Threading, Expert, Appointments Not Always Necessary, once a fortnight – oh, okay, every single week.

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