Monday, April 26, 2010

This Summer, Go Indi-Afro

Have you heard of cornrows? Well, not those undulating fields of corn that make up half the arable land in Africa...or maybe that's where the inspiration for it comes from..But here, what I'm talking about is how they create cornrows on your scalp...

It isn't an easy task I tell you. When your hair is that springy and tightly wound as the hair of Africans, it takes some innovation to style it and give it a distinctive look...

My first brush with an Afro hair style was when I was all of 3. My dad, like any good Malayali has spent most of his professional life working abroad and though a chunk of it of his was spent in the Gulf - Saudi Arabia to be precise, the first quarter of his professional life roughly was spent in Africa - first in Cameroun and then in Tanzania.

So coming back to my Afro style, when I was 3, my parents, new at parenthood decided to enter me into a fancy dress competition and dressed me up like a little local. With my straight cap of jet black hair, portioned into various sections and tightly wound up to look like a nice African hairstyle. Now what they didn't bargain for was vanity in a 3 year old. The precocious child that I was, all my interest in participation vanished when I realised that I had been given a hairstyle which in my little eyes wasn't glamourous enough...What would you expect when all around me there were little princesses with long flowing hair till their tiny backs...and for someone given the 'boy-cut' to keep her thick dark mop manageable, this seemed like there was little value addition...So I cried and threw fits and tantrums till they had to undo all their hardwork and only then did I take a sulky bow in the Indian gathering where the fancy dress was held...I guess I didn't feel fancy enough...( Dad has promised to scan that photo soon..when that comes in you shall see my first Afro too)

And then about a couple of decades later, here I am, in Brighton, suddenly fancying myself with an Afro-cornrow. I had been gung-ho about giving it a shot for a while, but the tipping point came when my gorgeous flatmate came back from a trip to London with this gorgeous hairstyle - a braided black carpet of hair...

I pestered her day and night, used all my charm up to coax her into trying that on my hair....Delicate issue of elastics to keep my silky dead-straight hair in some form of shape was the first stumbling block. But L my flatmate had all the solutions, now that she was sold on the idea.

So there on the first really sunny bright day, we sat in the little patio outside our house, L with her tube of 'Virgin Non-Sticky Hair Fertilizer' ( can you imagine how much we laughed over that?) and elastics and a comb - and the really enthu-cutlet in me...

All was well, when she portioned out my hair and told me that she would be just doing the crown part for doing the entire thick mess that was my hair would take atleast half a day. I said a breezy 'yes'. And L got down to work...In two minutes, the air was pierced by my Owwwwwwwwww....Did you know that an Afro-cornrow style makes you see little stars and bells and bees in front of your eyes? Little pinpricks of pain across my scalp as L began efficiently creating braids out of tiny portions....

By the half-way mark, we had to take a break for me to gather more breaths into my system to chant more Owwwwws in rhythmic beats to L's nimble finger sorcery....For a brief while I thought of doing a radical hairstyle, keep the half already done cornrow intact and leaving the other wound like a red-Indian woman over my other ear...Something like this....

But L would have none of it...She doesn't begin jobs to not finish it, you see...So then I studied more of those tiny birds flitting around with tiny little glowbees while little bells chimed....and L would encourage me to hold on saying "sorry love, just a little more...just a little while longer"....So with the determination of a pioneer all kicked to breach a new frontier I persevered.

And through all this, my friends were having a rocking time, taking pictures of the entire ordeal. This picture remains my friend A's favourite one...

An hour of torture...and L was a proud Braid Mama....My crown was down...and the remaining she said will fit into a ponytail...

So there I was with my Indi-afro cornrow...all set for Summer...

Now this isn't a hairstyle for the fainthearted. Your scalp will hurt like a bitch for a while reminding you about how your hair wasn't meant for such torture. But the end result was 'Oh-so worth it' for me.

Another thing to remember this Brighton Summer by....The Summer that I went Indi-Afro...and proudly so...

Life does come a full circle doesn't it...My folks saw me on Skype and the first thing they said was remember when you bawled your lungs out when we tried this on you? And now see, you think it is fashionable...Ahhhh, the fickle mind, I tell you!!!


  1. looks really painful...but you look beautiful...nice dusky skin too.

    enjoy yourself...that's the advice I give my boys too...'enjoy' comes before 'be safe' when they are away from home...if you don't taste life now, you will regret it later...even today I am game for anything...crazier the better!

  2. Hehehe, was for two I have got kind of used to it, but will have to get it off soon..:( you sound just like my mom...she's a cool dude too...always happy to see me do crazy stuff...the thing I didn't mention in the post is the crazy tingle you get, when the wind whips through this hairstyle...normally because of the thick matt, the wind or rain does not really get to your scalp right...when it's in cornrows, its like someone's lining your scalp with a cold brush...thats was even more fun..:)

  3. you are looking so pretty :)
    It sure looks painful...I always wondered how these girls do it...
    experimenting in life is good..

  4. Thanks LP..(Happy happy smile) L was telling me that when they get their braids done in a parlour, the hairdressers there are merciless and not into TLC like she was givng me...Imagine that..then again, our kind of hair is too silky and straight for thick cornrows like Afro hair...

  5. adoooorable :). I want too!! so good to see you making the most of your stay there!

  6. worth the painful effort as it does make you look good!

  7. looks so freaking cool! I will hafta 'read' the post later cos i was scrolling past the text part just to see the photos. I've always wanted to do this too! Did i tell you how cool it looks!!

  8. Pavi, KG: Must must give it a shot once...Like I was telling Nalini, the feel of cold air running along through the rows of cornrows, is such a wonderful one...I can understand why African girls like it so much..But most do them with hair extensions to make it look thicker..I did it just with my own hair...

    Magiceye: Thank you...:)

  9. this is nice........i have never done this ..or none of my friend...have always seen this in pics or movies......this do remind me of Monica from Friends who did it too......

    but this looks to wash your hair if you have a hairstyle as complicated as this??????

    may be dumb question......anyways it looks good......wish could get something like this done....but my hair are not this lengthy....... :)

  10. Hahaha, very practical question...Hitesh, the real easy answer is if you are an African its easier, if you are an Indian, the moment you wash your hair the style collapses..That's what happened to me..I'm back to my straight ordinary hairstyle..But African hair has to be treated and permed to be straight. So otherwise, it's like coir and when braided turn into literally ropes. So even if you pour water on it, it won't come off...:)

  11. you look quite carribean .. :-)... gorgeous... not like ur favourite actress anymore.. ;-)...
    and that virgin hair fertiliser... does it actually exist??? my god and i thought i was done hearing crazy product names...

  12. Haha, nids, It was never me who thought I looked like HER!! and yeah, the Africans love their Virgin Non-greasy Anti-Dandruff Hair Fertiliser. :)

  13. Wow! That is something! I have always wondered how much time goes into making cornrows! I have never imagined it to be this painful though :) You look wonderful!

  14. Very brave indeed!
    The pics are great.. I mimicked your expressions as I read the article! Thanks for posting.

  15. Haha, Giri..the next time to increase the Viewer Enjoyability Experience, I shall ask them to mimic expressions like you did..:) nice idea buddy

  16. Good read :)

    The good thing about trying out everything that catches your fancy is you never have any regrets later in life. Coz u wdve lived life fully. I'm an enthu-cutlet too, but a lot of times the practical side of me takes over

    There is so much to do in London... and in England... and the UK, make the most of your stay :)

    Following u!

  17. Thanks Arundhati...Indeed been planning to maximise my time here, but did not plan on such a rigorous course schedule...I guess I thought comiing back to college after a while would all be a merry picnic..But I promise you some fun rides with my merry band...:)