I was born and brought up in Darjeeling. My father worked for a tea plantation company. When I was just four years old, I moved to Kurseong town to pursue my studies as my father's job demanded him to move from one place to another.
I have suffered on the health front since my childhood. My parents would always take me to different doctors for one illness or the other — from flu to fever. But nobody could actually diagnose what was wrong with me.
I would have been around 10-years-old when I figured out that something was not normal.
One day, I woke up to large clumps of hair on my pillow. In the days to come, my hair would fall off like anything, while combing, bathing, sleeping, it just refused to stop.
Eventually, in a period of few days, I was rendered completely bald.
Since childhood, I did not have the slightest idea what was actually happening to me. From Allopathy to Ayurveda, I recall trying everything but to no avail.
After the medicines yielded no results, I eventually had to resume school the way I was. As I studied in a co-education school, I remember being mocked by students, particularly boys, for my looks. They would laugh behind my back and giggle in groups discussing what suddenly happened to me.
This shattered my self-confidence. I would lock myself in the washroom and cry inconsolably. I stopped taking part in school activities like quizzes, debates, and other activities that I once used to be interested in.
As there was no end to the miseries, my parents left no stone unturned to find me a specialist who could diagnose the disorder. So, we were able to find one in Siliguri who diagnosed me with 'Alopecia Areata'—a condition that causes hair to fall out in small patches, which can be unnoticeable. These patches may connect, however, and then become noticeable.
The condition develops when the immune system attacks the hair follicles, resulting in hair loss. For some people, hair grows back and never sheds again, but a relapse happens in most cases.
It happened to me.
My hair would grow back and then come out again, however, not entirely. Small patches of hair remained on my scalp, the rest come off. I was told to shave it off entirely as it didn't look good, but I refused for the fear that I would never be able to regrow this hair.
After passing my high school, I moved to a different school for a change. However, the experience turned out to be horrible. Everyone stared as if I was some creature from a different planet.
It made me so uncomfortable and I didn't know the way out. I was helpless and feeling left out. I had a condition that I had no control over. And I had no solution to my situation.
Over time, my family and I moved to Kolkata where I started consulting another specialist. After examining my health condition, he assured me that my hair would grow back. To my surprise, the treatment began to show results at the desired time. Hair growth was significantly visible when I started my college life.
I regained my lost confidence and all the insecurities faded away. However, the results came with a cost. I was frequently subjected to painful injections on my scalp and consumed medicines that made me nauseous. But all is well that ends well, I thought.
Living with a head with hair was something I was not used to, as far as I can recall.
I was so used to being bald that sometimes I forgot I had hair on my scalp. At times, the doctor used to tell me to get the haircut done, a stark reminder of my transformation.
After my master's, I shifted to Bengaluru for an internship where I had my first proper haircut.
Life seemed to return to normalcy but little did I know what was coming ahead.
In 2016, I encountered a relapse. While living in Bengaluru, it was not feasible to visit my doctor every now and then. So I had to deal with it all by myself till my hair fell off completely once again. That's when I decided to shave it off and quit my medicines also.
It was not an easy decision, of course, but had to do it for my own mental peace. One good thing around the time was the place I was living in.
People were sensible enough to understand a person's worth beyond looks and did not judge.
In the meantime, I got a new job and made the organisation aware of my medical condition. I used to dress up in simple jeans and round-neck polo t-shirts to get the minimum attention from people.
One day, I decided to don dangle earrings to the office. Soon after, I began receiving compliments from my fellow colleagues, which overwhelmed me.
During this time, I consulted a therapist to help me in the process of accepting myself the way I was.
People still do pass comments on my appearance and ask me questions like "Do you have cancer? Did you donate your hair in Tirupati? But they do not bother me anymore, I rather try to educate these people and make them aware of my condition. Now I can proudly say that I have come a long way from where I stood before and in a much better space.
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