Wednesday, April 03, 2013

On the ramp with Edna ......

The world appears to be greatly concerned about my hair.

I am being inundated with shampoo .  And conditioners. Claiming to perform all kinds of miracles . Straightening the hair. Curling the hair.  Bonding the split ends. Moisturizng the hair. Shining the hair.  I wait with baited breath for shampoos that automatically trim, cut and comb my hair too. 

The latest is that they want to know my take on ramp-ready hair.  ( I cannot stress enough that I never played marbles in my childhood with Tarun Tahiliani,  never went to the same school as Ritu Kumar, and was never on backslapping terms with parents of folks like Masaba, Vikram, Rocky, Nachiket or Swapnil...and yet they ask...?).

Ramp ready hair ?   

You don't know what that is?  Neither did I .

Ramps and I go back a long way .  Mostly, it has been a huge plank of wood which connected Mother Earth with something like a loading area of a truck, or a landing, where walking up  steps was not possible.  I've walked several ramps, when we moved houses 4 times till now, and twice for my late parents.  Then during my years in the US as a grad student, ramps were always on ramps or off ramps, and there was a technique of speeding or decelerating on the ramp, as you drove your car on to and off a freeway. 

Some ramps called life ramps,  really go a long way back. And one has always walked these ramps, in different styles of hair.

Like this shampoo called Tresemmé, launched by Ms Edna Emmé in 1947, which is almost as old as me.

Like my Life Ramp. And it has been an entertaining exercise, looking back and walking that ramp, with special reference to hair and shampoos. 

At the beginning of the ramp.....The best hair one probably had. Shining, soft, wet, curly, with wisps that needed no conditioning. You didn't really need a shampoo or a conditioner at that point.

Regardless of whether it stood up, stuck to your scalp, curled  or stayed limp, it was a wonder. Someone simply had to ruffle your hair  and everything was OK.

Further up the ramp, mess was the word they used when they didn't want to deal with the tangles. Fine , thick, curly hair, nourished by a shampoo, falling in rings all around.   Wet hair, sneezes, refusal to dry, and folks scrubbing it. And one tried to avoid folks who wanted to tie it in bows. Though I must say gajras and clips were OK....

The danger years. When you observed everything someone else did. With brushes. Combs. Clips.  Dryers. Your curls kind of gave up and began to straighten out. You surreptitiously experimented with tubes and lotions, and sometimes high heels were tried for effect.

Then someone would shout at you as you looked through some falling bangs, and tell you that your eyes would get spoilt and you would get glasses.

 In the preteens,  some great oiling of hair, and a braiding . Two tight braids, the requirement at school. Black ribbons with bows. Done just so.

The experimental hair science became a bit more exact. Regular hair washes, proper drying, combing out and detangling.  Washed hair, when wet, was never ever braided. Brushes were never used, and were never in fashion. Mothers looked at the combs after combing and shook their heads. Sometimes these braids were turned up. But never in high school.

Teenage was the golden age of hair. You poured over magazines with friends, quietly snipped away some locks, to create , what you thought was a brilliant set of bangs.

You oiled and washed and conditioned your hair several times a week. You did all kinds of tight rubber-banding to get a frizzy effect, and other times, combed out your hair is natural curls about your face. Tying up hair was a no-no.

Those of us who had frizzy hair hankered after straight, and vice versa.  Mothers never agreed to fiddling around with the God-given quality of your hair. And all this hair was always left open, and you constantly fiddled with it  for style.

College days, outings, celebrations, saw glossy hair, curled for the occasions, cascading on both shoulders. There were special cuts, layers, and an obsession with split ends, which caused a lot of cribbing. You mastered the art of making your curls bounce around your face as you walked. On a hot day, you casually twisted it up ensuring a few tendrils kind of cascaded down your cheeks.

The campus queen had arrived.
College annual days, friends weddings, family weddings, and you excelled , with a bit of help from your friends, in twisting your hair up, into a chignon.  Freshly conditioned, combed, hair, gracefully wrapping up one side, adorned with delicate flowers and jewellery, and pinned firmly into a bun. Some called it a knot.

The name is unimportant. What matters , is that this was the ramp ready style for the D-days then.

Then there were the traditional festive  family days. An early morning wash of hair, wearing of just washed clothes, and a family prayer get together.  You wore traditional clothes, and traditional jewellery, and your hair was up in a no nonsense khopa style. So ramp ready for the festival of lights and the new year, and you adorned it with jasmine and mogras under the keen eyes of your aunts.
Striding along the life ramp, swishing your now more than waist length hair.  There were folks in the house, and many more at the Tresemme Youtube Videos  marveling at, guiding and helping you take care of your hair. helping you with special shampoos, oils and conditioners.

You sat in front of the dressing table , as someone combed out the tresses, jet black, smooth, and shining. Mothers urged you to braid it, or pile it up. But it was more fun, tying it at the neck, and walking with a swish of the huge pony tail.

Have you seen the haughty looks which are standard on the ramp ? Well the life ramp has them too.

Hair greatly shampooed, conditioned, and blow dried straight. Combed up and knotted and clipped, with it all cascading down gracefully, across a back, secretly tattooed, without your maters knowledge. Smart clothes, confidence,  and greeting  everyone with a smile, and a shake of the mane, as it falls forward, and enraptures folks with its grace.

Some days are special on the ramp. Some days, friends join you on your ramp walk. Its is all about smooth, well set hair, piled high up, as you walk, head held high, on heels.  Not that you need the elevation, since you are already flying high with the imminent life changes. But the hair pulled up, highlights you eyes, and the shine within...  
Some stages on the ramp are formal. You wear formals, greet people formally in the company of a formal companion, carefully move around, smile a lot, and enjoy being the cynosure of all eyes, with the beautiful jewellery, hair adornments, and a great sense of clean comfort. The only way to proceed now is to the top . You look back, smile at those who've been part of it all, shared your tensions and cribs, you push back an escapist tendril, and turn to leave.
And so there are special ramps and day to day ramps.  You need to step from the former on to the latter.  It is all about coming home. Letting your hair loose, sitting with a cup of tea, tired feet up.  Energised, you get up, decide to have a bath,  wash your hair with Edna Emmé's shampoo, slather on conditioner, and wait. Thinking about how great the ramp walk has been . The experience. The applause. The appreciation.  You emerge, dry your hair, gently comb it, and twist it into a homely bun at the nape of your neck.

A few strands of hair escape, and curl down the sides of your face. You push them back, and notice a tinge of grey happening.  You smile, pick up a cup, and sip the remaining tea.

Edna Emmé , in 1947, decided to call her shampoo Tresemmé in honour of her own tresses.  I am almost as old as Edna's shampoo, and now it is  a Tresemmé life...

 I like to think, that had she been around today, her hair might have resembled mine.

Grey, in streaks, with some dark ones defiantly holding on.

She might have approved of the ramp walk. And then again, she and I might have done a senior citizen ramp walk together, reached the end, and smiled our thank you's before turning back.....

(All pictures courtesy Google images)

Submitted as an entry for the Indiblogger "TRESemmé Ramp Ready Hair" contest.


  1. I have walked the ramp with many signposts along the way. I now use Tresemme mousse on my newly cut hair and am waiting eagerly for it to grow back out! And yes, my face is framed in silver hair. :-)

  2. That was a well explained hair study along the ages. When I moved to San Francisco in the 1960s and wanted to return to my natural hair color (I had had my hair colored black) but could not afford going to the hairdresser often I became a model for Clairol, the hair coloring manufacturer in the US. Different stylists would color my hair and set it up in extravagant styles – I hated it! After a year I gave up as I did not like to parade on the hair ramp during hair shows and my hair had been returned to its color.


  3. Your writings are so wonderful!
    We both are in the same age group & your writings have such a true echoing ring!
    Have also lived in Mumbai.Used to visit Mumbai every year during school holidays as maternal grandparents lived there.My own mother studied at Maharshi Karve's Mahilashram in Hingne.Then she studied at St.Xavier's & did research in Clinical Biochemistry at the Haffkine Institute.Later she shifted to University of Allahabad where she got a teaching position but her first love was Bombay.
    But then with the steady crumbling of Bombay city she completely was off the city!
    Sad but true this is the story of all our cities especially the big ones.
    The neat,beautiful University town of Allahabad has also followed suit & gone down the drain.
    God only knows when the tides will turn!
    Thanks for your brilliant writings.My daughter too joins me in our sincere appreciation.

  4. Well, I've been hit on the head a few times with a board that could have been used in a ramp, but I was hardly ready for it. So, I suppose that does not count. Sigh,