As the tourist season drew near, many of the restaurants and resorts that had remained previously unopened were cleaning up, hanging signs, and applying fresh coats of paint to mask the pervasive mildew that seemed to cover everything. We had the luxury of eating at some of the finer local restaurants that had semi-famous reputations, and most were deserving of their fame.
Two streets over from our well-loved condo was one of the swankiest resorts in the area, the Hotel Goan Heritage. Pricey by even western standards, it was where the wealthy westerners, businessmen, bureaucrats, and elite would stay when in Goa. With several swimming pools to choose from, open to the public for a small fee, it made for a nice getaway and a chance for us to feel wealthy, if only for a moment. The restaurant served authentic European cuisine, a fact which was not lost on us or our children, who by this time were getting quite tired of Indian food.
Among the services they offered were a salon and a haircutter. I had been toying with the idea of getting my locks trimmed before returning to the conservative folds of Southern Ontario, to seem a little more respectable and to perhaps blend in a bit better. By now my hair was well past my shoulders, as it had been more than a year since any sort of a trim. I enquired at the salon reception, and on a whim, decided to get my mane significantly lessened. The ladies working the counter informed me that it would be just a few moments until they summoned the male barber. I dawned on me that strict cultural taboos still held sway here, and that according to custom, it was inappropriate for a woman to cut my hair.
I was led into the men’s cutting room to await the barber. He seemed a barberly enough sort of fellow, with a thick mustache, and hair slicked back by some sort of pomade. He looked a bit aghast when I explained that I wanted my hair cut short, and I watched in the mirror with amusement as he proceeded to cut my hair in rough chunks. I was beginning to doubt that he had ever cut long hair before, as few men in India wore it, and due to the aforementioned cultural taboo’s he would never have had the experience of cutting a woman’s long hair. After a few minutes of his frantic jabs and uneven cuts, I began to wonder if he had ever cut hair at all. He would hesitantly hover, consider his stroke carefully, make a few tentative thrusts, and then snip a lock or two before stepping back to consider his next move.
My head was an uneven mess of tufts jutting out at all angles, and he stood back, and looking satisfied with his work, handed me the mirror. “Can you even it out a bit?” I asked, not wanting to offend his skill (or lack therof.)
“Sure, sure. Just a moment more, please sir.” It didn’t seem that he did anything more than trim some of the grosser examples of unevenness when he put his scissors down, seeming pleased with his work. Realizing that anything more might leave me with an unworkable or bald head, I thanked the man, paid and left. Honestly, being shaved clean might have been preferable at that point, but I had no desire to let this man get any closer to my soft, blood filled scalp.
I should hand to Theresa, she hid her laughter well, and volunteered to repair the damage at home with her own scissors. I tried to hide my head as well as I could on the walk home, to avoid the pointing and stares that I imagined awaited me on sight of my now misshapen head. Ah well, at least hair grows back. I still had much to be thankful for. And we were heading home to Canada soon!
It was somewhat bittersweet, as we knew there was so much more world to see. We had barely touched upon India alone, and had a yearning for Europe and other far flung reaches of the globe. Once the travel bug has you in its grip, it’s hard to escape its grasp. Theresa had been planning a trip to Europe when she found out the she was pregnant with Cyrus, which had curtailed her plans indefinitely. To be so close and yet so far was difficult. In theory, we had the funds to do so. We had used about two thirds of our savings in our trip, and knew that Europe was not cheap, and would result in us returning home with little left in the bank. If not for the fact that the children had expressed their desire to return home before we even set out for India, we surely would have explored the continent that so many of us in North America can trace our ancestry back to. Theresa’s family all hailed from Russia, but we had no real desire to visit that vast and wild nation. I had roots in Ireland and England, and Italy, France, and Spain all held a certain allure as well.
Deciding to play it safe, and I having completed my certification in Ayurvedic essentials, we had opted to return to Canada, stopping at least for a visit to my family in Ontario, and leaving enough in the bank to start anew wherever we ended up. The journey of life is always in progress. It is our perspective of forward motion and change of scenery that make us feel as though we are travelling. Put that in your pipe and smoke it, Deepak Chopra!