Source: Humans of Bombay
When I was in the 7th standard, my mother noticed a slight hair thinning patch on my scalp and took me to the doctor, who told us that I had Alopecia. I started my medication and within 6 months I had lost 95% of my hair. I began growing a lot of facial hair and a swollen face and as a teenager you can imagine what kind of reaction that provoked. I was teased, bullied, made fun of and while the other girls at school were flirting with boys…I was busy hiding. I went from a social, happy child to being completely withdrawn. I tried to shift my focus to studies, but the medication even affected my memory but I still managed.
During college, I was completely shut off. I would wear a scarf around my head, look down while walking and avoid any eye contact or communication. People obviously speculated about me, but I had my walls up so high — I didn’t want anyone to hear about my condition and cut off from me… so I thought it was better to cut myself off from the world. My years in college went by like this – speaking to no one and keeping to myself.
After college I took an entire year off and sat at home because I was scared of filling out job applications which always asked about medical conditions. I would sit at home all day, speak to no one, watch movie after movie, show after show and go to sleep. I was depressed and kept wondering ‘why?’… ‘why me?’ All this while my mother would keep telling me try on a wig and just get a move on and finally I decided that I simply had to leave and get out.
I bought a wig and went to work but again with a lot of fears and insecurities — I tried to keep to myself as much as possible and would even dress like a man so that no one would notice me. One evening, I was going home by train when while trying to get down, a woman pulled at my wig and it came off. For those 2 minutes, I was entirely numb…it was like the identity I had hidden for more than a decade was pulled off me. Tears started rolling down my face, as everyone on the platform watched. I picked up my wig, got into a rickshaw and cried for the first time in public. My parents were out that week, so I got home locked the door and stayed there for two days because I felt so exposed.
As I look back, that was the best thing that happened to me because finally I decided to let go. I decided to not wear a wig, put on a flowery dress and embrace this as my beauty. I went back to work, completely bald and for the first time in a long time I looked people in the eye as I walked past them…and felt accepted. People thought I did it as a style statement and began to compliment me…I finally felt comfortable in my own skin. I was only hesitant once when I had to wear a sari, but even that worked out well. I went from a ‘why me?’ to ‘why not?’ because of my inner strength and that’s something I’m proud of.
You know we hear a lot about what makes a woman – her thick hair, brown eyes or curvy body…but I think a woman is so much more than that. She’s strong, relentless and fierce and her outer appearance can never represent all of that.”