Skin is in…. the few, the proud, the bald
By Vidushi Seneviratne and Thiruni Kelegama
It takes only five to ten minutes, and the end result is that more and more people are stepping out of the barbershops with gleaming heads.

Bald is beautiful they say… "I had lovely long locks up to my back," says Roshan, who works in the media section at JWT. "And it was then that I decided to take the drastic step, and shave all it all off. I know it was a radical move, however, it was pretty neat. Now I find it very easy to be spotted, as my head has a tendency to shine."

He also added that he didn't do it because he wanted to make a fashion statement, and that now he can take as many showers a day as he wants to without having to worry about getting a cold, or best of all, having to bother with combing his hair.

Dannelle Diaz, a former member of the bald circle, who also works at JWT, was unfortunately forced to grow his hair quite recently "because I met with a couple of accidents recently, so it would be safe to say that I was forced to grow it!"

Now sporting a haircut, which serves to hide his scars, Dannelle, said that he shaved it quite some time ago, "precisely in 2001, July."

Why did he do it then, we had to ask. "Because I thought it would be comfortable, and I can wash my head when I wash my face every morning. And you do not have to use a comb at all, and that is such a big relief."

However, shaved heads has its own history. In Egypt, many centuries before Christ, barbers were prosperous and highly respected. The ancient monuments and papyrus show that the Egyptians shaved their beards and their heads. The Egyptian priests even went so far as to shave the entire body every third day. At this time the barbers carried their tools in open-mouthed baskets and their razors were shaped like small hatchets and had curved handles. The Bible tells us that when Joseph was summoned to appear before Pharaoh, a barber was sent for to shave Joseph, so that a unkempt face would not offend Pharaoh's sight.

In Egypt, around 1500 B.C. in Egypt a shaved head was considered the ultimate in feminine beauty. Egyptian women removed each and every hair from their heads with special gold tweezers and polished their scalps to a high sheen with buffing cloths

The shaved head was often seen as a sign of holiness or reclusiveness such as the shaved heads of Buddhist monks and nuns and the tonsures of monks in the Christian tradition.

Tradition apart, shaving one’s head has been done for many different causes. Some for obtaining that 'cool' look, some because they say that it is easy to manage, and some because of their hair loss… however, there is also this case of doing it for a friend. In the States, in a particular college, a young undergraduate had been diagnosed for cancer. As he started undergoing chemotherapy, he started losing his hair. Therefore his friends had all urged him to shave his head, and they had done the same too… so that he would not be seen as the 'boy with cancer'.

Dallas Martin, another person believes shaving is the best way to go had this to say. "I had a shaved head for about four years, but unfortunately I had to grow my hair again, as I cannot go to work like this. But if I had a choice, I would definitely shave it all over again." When asked about the plus points of having a shaved head, he had this to say… "It is very comfortable and was very easy to manage."

Laughs apart, shaving one's head is not a new thing. "It was first done in Sri Lanka long time ago by a film actor named Sampath Sri Nandalochana," says Mr. Reggie Candappa, who has always admitted that bald is better. "I treat my head like my face… I shave it every morning, and even apply aftershave lotion. If I do not shave it every day, I have a day’s growth on my head, and I have become used to it." And shaving it made managing my hair very easy, he added. "I only have to make sure that it is shaved, and that there is no hassle about having to do that. I do not even have to usue all sorts of products to maintain it…. And I also think that if I had any hair, I would look much older!" When did he first shave his head, we had to ask. "I did it about ten years ago, and when my grandchildren saw it, they said, "Seeya, you look so cool!" he reminisces. "And that was it. The way they said it made me never want to grow my hair again. So, I have had a shaved head ever since."

Shaved heads can also be a family thing…. as in the cases of Ashan, Rajiv, Sanjeev, and Prashan. "We all played rugger," explains Ashan, "and we had very short hair back then.

However, we never got down to growing it again, as it has proved to be very comfortabl e, and easy to manage too." "I shave it a couple of times a week," says Ashan smiling when asked about how he takes care of it.

With all these people with shaved heads around, one does tend to wonder what happened to the long accepted fact that a full head of hair is always the best?

But judging from the number of people who thought that this 'was the way to go', we were convinced that in the end that, yes, bald is beautiful.

When a seething mass of humanity heed an inner call
"Fire Walking.." in The Sunday Times revived memories of a close friend and mentor of mine, known to all as German Swami, Gauribala.. Before his demise in Jaffna, in 1984, he was one who did the fire walking at Kataragama, annually during the July Festival, for over 10 years, walking bare-foot from the North, along the coast-line, via Batticaloa, Pottuvil, and the Yala Sanctuary to this Southern jungle shrine.

German Swami - with whom I was associated very closely as a member of a group of six, including the one-time Governor-General's, son, Soulbury, better known in Kataragama and elsewhere as Soulbury Swami, alias Annaikutty and Sandasawami, two Australians, a Tamil, Swami Gauribala and myself - often told us that the walkaton pilgrimage to this place corresponded to the Biblical return of the 'Prodigal Son' to his Father's Home, after his wanderings in the temporal world, sans anyone organising the journey back or telling him to do so.

The direction was expected to sprout from within each individual's 'heart' impelled by 'an inner spiritual call' and the Journey was analogically parallel to the return from the periphery of mortal Samsara to the Centre of Spirituality in one's own self. Kataragama was said to symbolically signify this in a spatio-temporal-experiential manner. It was a ritual of self-abnegation and mortification, in a sort of Pooja as an offering of one's karmically earned, mortal self to the Unknown.German Swami performed this many times in his lifetime, and when he started on this pilgrimage, others, who had a similar 'inner call' joined him (or he joined them) on the way and their numbers grew, until the whole show became one seething mass of pilgrims, carrying packs on heads and shoulders, by the time the concourse reached Kataragama before the festival-partaking alms doled out to them, en- route by householders by way of sustenance.

Having reached the sacred destination, some performed other modes of Penance like rolling half-naked on the scorching sand, skewing their tongues and cheeks with spikes and dangling, roped on hoists etc. German Swami told us that all such acts are possible owing to a dramatic transformation of our normal, familiar, mind-consciousness to a supra-mental state, triggered by intense faith and devotion, similar to the states attained by Saints in ancient times when they were tortured or burnt at the stake. In this state of self- hypnosis the conventional consciousness within Time/Space/Experience reaches a Bindu-one-Pointedness and other forms of Awareness (or non-awareness) takes over, very much like one under an anaesthetic. This is where, perhaps, the activation and attributes of the Pineal gland comes into play.
- Sam Wickremasinghe

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