Although I was snapped by a brilliant HT photographer, some friends sent rude messages about the picture with this column: “So sue, Moonface.” “Too much grey, told you to colour.” But hey, that’s the face they caught that day. And the grey was a policy decision to see where Nature took me (to you, aha) and to dodge the painful high maintenance.
When I had to do or dye, I could only think of that mad Goldie Hawn-Meryl Streep movie, Death Becomes Her, in which two competitive galpals go so totally OTT with knife and needle for immortality that in the end they literally fall apart. Everyone needs to be tidy and groomed, as both social contract and job requirement. But surely colour’s a personal call?
“Embrace your reality,” chirped my inner voice. So I let ‘God’ mark me ‘With His hammer of wind/And His graver of frost.’
In fact I rather like that verse where Dashrath decides to crown Ram when grey hair, as though to pre-empt Kaikeyi, appeared at his ears like old age whispering, “I am coming.” (Kalidasa’s Raghuvamsa 12: 2, Tam karnamoolamaagatya / Palitacchadmanaa jaraa/Kaikeyeesankayevaaha/Rame shreernyasyataamiti).
Even as a modern woman, there’s a good side to grey that nobody tells you of, because it’s always been about pleasing that evergreen epic hero, The Male Gaze. After living with TMG since age 12 or 13, you get protective cover with grey. TMG seems to unregister you proportionately and it’s nice to go about unremarked, minding your own darn business.
The makeover can have a few off-takes. The other day as I stepped off a Chao Phraya River waterbus, a beamish boy gravely gave me his hand in an act of compassion. And last week, when a random Indian on my road almost knocked me down and said “Soree, Mataji,” in the most mannerly way, did I nod nicely? No, I almost slugged him.
As to which, remember that rehab scene in the Angelina Jolie movie Gia, about the wild beautiful model who lit up NY in the 80s and died of AIDS? A black girl tells Gia, “You had a free ride and you blew it!”
All I’m saying is there wasn’t and isn’t a guarantee of happiness even when you were or are a PYT. Not even if you’re Raja Dashrath. So you could be happy, grey (Oh-oh, another sms: “2 kewl, the Mona Lisa.”)
*Renuka Naraynan writes on religion and culture