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Hair pursuit

More men are losing hair at a younger age in urban India than ever before. So much so that it has become one of the principal peeves of the metrosexual male. In despair, they’ll try anything — including rubbing ketchup on the bald pate. Ruchira Hoon reports.

health and fitness Updated: Jul 12, 2009 00:48 IST
Ruchira Hoon

Delhi-based advertising professional Arvind Kumar (27) is usually the first to know when it rains. “The raindrops go pitter-patter on my bald pate. And yes, I run for cover every time,” he says wryly. He’s been wearing a toupee for the last three years, and has now decided to shave off the remaining downy hair.

At 26, marketing executive Rahul Ganjoo actually lives up to his name (ganjoo is Hindi slang for bald). He’s good-looking and, well, nearly bald. It’s been three years since Ganjoo started losing hair. Not only has his hairline receded but he’s even got a bald patch in the middle of his head. And he’s extremely uncomfortable about it. “I can’t believe this is happening to me. People laugh at me, saying ‘Abbe Ganjoo, tu ganjoo ho gaya hai (Hey Ganjoo, you’ve become bald)’,” he says. Ganjoo hasn’t attended a single wedding in the family in the last two years. Nor has he been to school alumni parties. “I don’t like being made fun of, so I just don’t go out anywhere, where people know me from before.”

Look around and take a ‘topograpical’ view. There’s hardly a man around with a healthy mop of hair. It seems almost like an epidemic, though no official figures for the number of bald men can be found.

According to trichologist Dr Madhur Madgaonkar, almost 39 men visit him everyday with hair loss-related queries. “Six out of ten of them are in the age group of 25-35,” he says. Each of them wants to know the same thing — how to grow his hair back. He’s suggested tonics, massages, weaving and even transplant in some cases, depending on the confidence levels of the client. “Men in their 20s do not want to look like 40-year-olds, which is why they are insistent on changing their look,” says Madgaonkar. “They feel their masculinity is at risk, they’ll be overlooked for promotion, not get the woman of their dreams and even at times, believe no one will take them seriously.”

So why are urban Indian men losing hair? “Male pattern baldness has been seeking a cure for aeons. Of course there’s the usual stress, lifestyle, bad eating habits, but the surprising thing that has sprung up is men are really stressed about losing hair, which is why they lose their hair!” says dermatologist Dr Mukul N. Raghavan. “Genetically too, the hair gene seems to be mutating, because of all the erroneous chemicals that are being used. And so hair loss is getting accelerated both in age and in speed.”

One of the key things that both doctors have noted is that men in their 20s do not live in denial as against those in their late 30s. “When they see patterns of baldness, they want to deal with it, not wait till they are made fun of,” adds Raghavan. Which is why you’ll see fewer young men with combs in their back pockets. “They either ask for a cure or they shave it all off.”

And as far as Arvind Kumar is concerned, since his wife quite likes his shiny bald pate, it’s no surprise that he sees the bright side to it — “I save quite a bit on hairbrushes, expensive shampoos and even trips to the barber. And with all the money saved, I’m going to make sure that my wife always has a healthy mane so that our progeny do not suffer.”

But not all women are as supportive of baldness as Arvind’s wife. Some believe a man with lesser hair is much less virile. A myth that most men are quick to bust. “How can you find a bald ing man attractive, especially when the light is bouncing off his head?” asks copy-writer Amaya Gokul (26). “You’ve got to have something to ruffle. Something to run your hands through."