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Overcoming superstition, Pune women get rid of dreadlocks

One of the women had suffered the condition for the past 15 years as her hair grew into a single 5-foot-long dreadlock. When cut, the dreadlock weighed around 7-8 kg.

pune Updated: Mar 04, 2018 14:31 IST
Shalaka Shinde
Shalaka Shinde
Hindustan Times, Pune
dreadlock,pune,superstition
Nandini Jadhav and PSI Shivaji Bhosale convinced Shanta Bhise (left) to cut their dreadlocks.(HT Photo)

Overcoming the fear of superstition, three women with naturally caused dreadlocks (jata) got rid of them with the help of anti-superstition activist, Nandini Jadhav, the Pune unit of Maharashtra Andhashradhha Nirmoolan Samiti (MANS), founded by the late Dr Narendra Dabholkar.

The three were assisted by police sub inspector (PSI) Shivaji Bhosale of Khadki police station. Identified as Lata Khandekar, Asha Shinde and Shanta Bhise, all in the age group of 45-50 years, they were strongly advised by their friends and neighbours not to cut the jata as that would invite the wrath of gods.

Khandekar had suffered the condition for the past 15 years as her hair grew into a single 5-foot-long dreadlock. When it was finally cut, the dreadlock weighed around 7-8 kg, according to Jadhav, who cut the dreadlock.

Her condition came to light after PSI Bhosale came across Khandekar while patrolling in the Pune Municipal Corporation colony at Wakdewadi. He convinced her that Jadhav of MANS was experienced in the field and had performed 43 such procedures before.

Around 45 years of age, Khandekar and her family had a dairy business which was shut down a few years ago. She could not lift her hands and the movement of her neck was restricted due to the dreadlock.

“I feel light and fresh. I could not bend, could not do any work, I had problems with my back, neck and hands. I feel like I have wasted the past 15 years,” said Khandekar.

The physical ease she felt motivated Khandekar to tell Jadhav about two other women in her vicinity who also had the dermatological condition. Asha Shinde, who did menial jobs to make ends meet, had the dreadlock for over a year and, like the other two, was advised against cutting the dreadlock as it would displease the gods. Khandekar, Jadhav and PSI Bhosale went to Shinde and convinced her as well to cut the lock off.

“I had a problem in my back, my neck and my hands. I never told anyone about it and suffered. When I tried to tell people, they told me to endure the little pain in the name of god. I will tell other women (with the condition) to get rid of it while its small,” said Shinde.

The two women then led Jadhav and PSI Bhosale to Shanta Bhise. Bhise, who also works as a domestic help, had suffered the condition for the past five years. “She had initially (years ago) refused to cut it off out of religious fear. Eventually, when she decided to cut it off, she tried to go to a beauty parlour who not only refused but also told her to keep it,” Jadhav said.

Lata Khandekar. (HT Photo)

“I went to this famous beauty parlour in Deccan to get rid of it. They refused to touch it saying it’s God-given. I also went to Kashigaon but met with the same response,” said Bhise.

“I would like to tell people to not endure this problem that I suffered in the name of superstition. I told my friend (Asha Shinde) that there’s no one to take care of us, so it is in our interest to get rid of the lock. If we become bed-ridden, we will have no one to care for us,” Khandekar said.

The jata, commonly known as dreadlocks, are either caused naturally or can be achieved through cosmetic procedures.

The condition which causes the hair to form a single lock is called plicapolonica, said Dr Vasudha Belagaumkar, associate professor of dermatology at Byramjee Jeejeebhoy Medical College in Pune. “It is usually a skin problem caused by various reasons, including lack of personal hygiene,” she said.

As the condition causes the hair to form a matted lock, combing and washing becomes difficult which in turn can cause fungal, bacterial or parasitic infections. “The lock is very hard and it has a bad odour. It is filled with rubbish and superstitious beliefs make these women keep it. I have performed 43 such procedures before (now 46). One of them was an IT engineer from Magarpatta City,” said Nandini Jadhav, Pune head of Maharashtra Andhashraddha Nirmulan Samiti (MANS).

While it does not have any direct neurological or psychiatric effects, underlying neurological or psychiatric problems may be manifested due to the condition, experts said.

However, enthusiasts have also had dreadlocks made out of their hair cosmetically. Ural Nath, a marketting professional based in Mumbai, explained, “I have curly hair so it was easier for me. I grew my hair for 3 years. The lady who did my dreadlocks used the crochet method. She made medium square sections of my hair and back-combed it. She then used a crochet needle to tie the knots. I have 38 dreadlocks.” For maintenance, he said, the hair needs to be crocheted every four months to settle the hair that outgrows the knots.

First Published: Mar 04, 2018 14:29 IST