Does a bald pate bother you? Here're some men who carry it off with confidence

Hair is such a great leveller; or, more accurately, the lack of it is.Haven't we all witnessed that bane of mankind — baldness — sneaking up on men in their prime, exposing their pates to the elements inch by inch? Apparently, one wrong gene is all that it takes, for that thick crop of hair to messily end up at the bottom of the bath. And then? No more bi-monthly visits to the saloon; no more trading notes about the latest in conditioners; no more worrying about grey-hair and bad-hair-days, because most of it has gone anyway.Surely, we thought, losing hair can't be easy; for instance, there are the miracle hair-loss cures, all of which make it out as if losing hair is the single most traumatic experience in one's life! Near bald-men are constantly roasted by their wives for `wasting money' when they go for their bi-annual haircut; `we can't see any difference' they callously tell them. And then, look at the movies — only the baddies are usually bald; everybody else, even ageing stars, wouldn't dream of donning the grease paint without their pet wig in place! Who, we wondered, could be truly happy with a receding hairline? The answer, when we asked around, was (surprisingly) quite a few!Prasad Menon, marketing director, Liz Claiborne, Europe, is one of the `proud to be bald' men. "While growing up I never recall having sleepless nights wondering if that gene got into my head. My hairline started receding in my early twenties, and now I've gracefully embraced it by always keeping my head shaved." Varun Rajiv, law student, says he hoped he wouldn't follow in the footsteps of his father/grandfather in losing hair. "But now that has happened, I at least hope that, looking at their old photographs, I also look like Elvis before losing the garden on top!"

No longer a stigma

M. Seshadri (name changed), businessman, who claims he's shedding hair faster than a tree in autumn, argues it's hardly a stigma anymore! "I think baldness is shocking only because of the drastic change — seeing somebody with hair, and then a couple of years later, poof, it's all gone! And it does make you look dramatically different." "But balding as a phenomenon is so slow (like global warming!) that you won't wake up one morning looking bald," says Prasad. Which, of course, is lead-time enough for mums (who're typically reduced to a frenzy watching their son's steadily growing bald-patch) to `fix' a match before the `boy' loses all the vegetation on top.

Marriage and the mane

But, frankly, does it really matter? "I was bald by the time I was 27, and so a bald head was part of the package," says Prasad, adding that "if in our matrimonial column driven bride+groom recruitment society, a girl chooses a bald head, then she will do it for the right reasons'.Agrees Varun. "That's when you hope that a woman marries you for our personality, sense of humour and not looks." Seshadri, for his part, feels it's a good thing to get married after one goes bald, `for the simple reason that the spouse is not shocked by the sudden change!' (Several women have had to hide their wedding album in an underground vault, as they're fed up of people asking who that chap in the wedding photograph is!)But is the transition from hair today, gone tomorrow really all that smooth? Weren't they tempted at all, to try the very many cures that promise not just to stop hair-fall, but to reverse the trend as well? "I guess for all the balding youth, there is that one stage when you think you can rescue the sinking heap (of hair). At that point, you're quite willing to apply any liquid, solid, anything, to reverse it. When I was living in Moscow, years ago, some smart marketer launched Anoop oil. So when I left Mumbai after my vacations, you can imagine what I carried in my hand luggage," laughs Prasad.

`Hot' and hairless

A smooth pate is not entirely without its advantages either — for it's considered, among other things, highly sexy; sport stars have clean-shaven heads, as do some popular `hunks' of Hollywood (think Vin Diesel) who prefer being naturally bald to wearing a rug on their heads! "Well, if a man had Vin Diesel's body, who would care about his baldness," laughs Varun. "But then, it doesn't suit everybody," he says."One needs to have the right head-shape for that," says Prasad. "I first got the idea to shave my head when I was living in Brazil and was exposed to all the hot football players. With a good bit of encouragement from my wife, I shaved off completely and till date (after 7 years) I maintain that look!"The only obvious drawback to being bald, Prasad says, is that one cannot sport the latest hairdo like friends and colleagues at that age. Growing bald is clearly not the end of the world; and no, there's simply no need to take cover under a toupee either. As Prasad sums it up, bald can indeed be beautiful if you are gifted with the physical attribute of a well-shaped head and the confidence to carry it.APARNA KARTHIKEYAN.