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Questioning eyes

When your child wants to know exactly how naughty a child you were during your childhood, it is next to impossible to avoid answering the question. The best you can do is smile and pretend to be really busy, but children eventually do corner you. That is exactly what happened when I tried to evade their questions and their questioning eyes- I got cornered and had to tell them this little story… We are three sisters- me, my twin and then our youngest sister. It is easier to call Tina youngest and not younger because I always considered my twin, Jane, my younger sister.

Being born two minutes before your twin has its advantages, you know! Since we looked the same, we also dressed the same way. There was nothing that Jane had that I did not have, be it a ribbon, a skirt or even a pair of earrings. However, that similarity was only until the time we carried backpacks to school. After that things changed…but this story is of the time when we took pride in doing everything together, when we went to the same school, had the same interests and basically were glued to each other. A few days before Christmas, Mother decided that both Jane and I needed a haircut.

It was quite a wonder that we as six year olds could not get our hair to behave as well as Tina could, though she was only three then. We had long brown hair that was always getting in our way, whether we were seated at the dinning table or crouching on the floor concentrating on our painting masterpieces. Tina on the other hand, had silky black curly hair that was somehow always in place. Mother badly wanted to make us ‘presentable’, as she said. So, the day Mother managed to get some time, she marched us to the saloon. Off we went, happily chatting, to the saloon.

We did like our hair and did not quite want it cut, but a little sweet talk from Mother and of course the ladies at the saloon had us convinced that a haircut was the best thing for us. We perched ourselves on the chairs and sat still while the ladies went clip-clip, dropping locks of hair onto the floor. A short visit to the saloon and we got back home with considerably shorter hair! By the time we reached home, we were both so excited about our new haircuts that we raced to the mirror. I wanted to admire my look in the mirror, but Jane would not move aside.

The trouble was that we both wanted to be in front of the same mirror. Who cared if there was a mirror in every room? A push and a pull and a heated exchange of words between us brought someone into the room. The door opened to let in a sleepy-eyed and bewildered Tina into the arena where the fight was going on. We gave her one look and then sensing no danger from her (things could have been different had it been Mother instead of her), we continued with what we were doing- testing our warfare skills. Finally I managed to get a decent look at myself in the mirror too.

I had to admit that I looked much better after the trim. At least now I could see my face and my features were visible and I did not have to push the frizzled strands of hair away, only to have them come right back to where they were! Was I happy! Jane too looked really pleased with herself. In our happiness, we forgot all about the tiff and became our amiable old selves again. A look across the room made us realize that Tina was still standing there. The only difference was that she looked a lot more awake than she was a few minutes ago.

However, her hair still gave the just-out-of-bed look. That was the moment of enlightenment, the time when two great minds (Jane’s and mine) thought alike. In a flash, both of us were by Tina’s side, asking her what she thought of our new look. We are not sure what the actual words were or if she even uttered anything that made the slightest sense to us, but we concluded that she had liked our latest fashion statement. We were strangely convinced that she not only appreciated the way we looked but would also like to look like us.

Soon Jane and I were the busiest twins on earth. We quickly conveyed to Tina just what we were going to do and how we would do it. The professional explanation of the lady at the saloon came in handy, though we had to come down to Tina’s level- she was a child after all. Some sweet words, a little coaxing and a lot of eager innocence on our faces and we were all set. Once Tina was ready, the next task was to arrange for all the instruments. I ordered Jane to fetch two pairs of scissors from Mother’s room.

Luckily for us, Mother was busy baking cookies and the scissors that we so desperately needed lay quite unwanted next to the pile of gifts that needed to be wrapped. The second pair was on the sewing machine. The next items on our list were two combs, which were not difficult to find. Jane pointed out that we could use ours’. We however still needed two things- a towel to bundle up Tina in and some candy to keep her in good humor. Christmas and no candy? That was not possible. But we had no clue where Mother had kept all the candies.

I made the supreme sacrifice and gave Tina one of mine, which she happily accepted and promptly popped into her mouth. The towel was brought from the bathroom. Tina did not seem to mind that the towel was a little damp. We seated her on the chair that was conveniently placed in front of the mirror and wrapped her up in the towel. It was a good thing that her mouth was stuffed with the candy, else she would have definitely had something to say about the tightly wrapped towel! It all looked so good. We were about to give someone a haircut for the first time in our lives!

Since we were first timers, we decided to have a quick discussion about the kind of haircut we should give Tina. Once the length and the style were decided, we embarked on our journey towards becoming hair stylists. Tina was lucky to have two people attend to her hair. That way her hair would be done quicker. Jane took charge of the left side and I handled the right. In no time at all, we straightened her hair with the combs, as much as we could and then got down to cutting her tresses. In one snip of the scissors, the shoulder length hair was cropped and the new length was a little below the ears.

We had decided that she only needed a trim and not a cut, so we got rid of only about three inches of hair. Each fallen lock of beautiful black hair added to our ecstasy. It showed that we were working hard. I completed my task before Jane did and waited for her to finish her job. When she was done, we compared the length of the hair on both sides. Sadly they were not the same. So, we got down to matching the length. The harder we tried, the more difficult it got. One part or another had longer locks than the rest. When that was shortened, it became shorter than the rest.

This went on until we were interrupted by Mother. Mother had been looking for us all over the house. I am not sure if she was relieved or displeased to find us, especially when she saw what we had been up to. We were painfully aware of the fact that we had added to Mother’s work. There was so much hair on the floor that I could not help offering Mother a hand. We promised that we would clean up the place, but it was as though she never even heard us. She kept looking at Tina. Finally she said, “Oh God! ” I think she was really furious, but I was not sure and certainly did not want to know either.

The hair cut incident is not an out-of-the-world kind of story. It is a very plausible story, one that has probably occurred in many households right across the face of the earth. The only difference is that in each household, the names of the children involved are different, there is an array of emotions unique to that particular family and the outcome of the entire incident is varied. Some children may have been beaten up, some threatened, and some might have been grounded for a week… the story remains the same, for children are the same everywhere.

It is the family and the punishment-givers who dictate the different endings. The last thing I remember regarding this incident is that when father came home that evening, we were summoned to the living room and a ‘talk’ session ensued. We had to answer so many questions that I began to think that we had done something wrong. Eventually the discussion ended peacefully with our parents explaining to us exactly why it was a wrong thing to do and us promising not to do anything of that sort in the future. We kept our promise.

We never cut anyone’s hair after that day, unless you count the trimming of a curtain as one of the same incidents. We had to trim the curtain because we had burnt it partially and…but that is quite another story. For now it is enough to say that on Christmas, Mother took great pains to cover Tina’s head with a pretty scarf, one that she looked really adorable in. Till date however, neither has Tina given us credit for making her look pretty that Christmas, nor has she agreed to let us do her hair for her!

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