‘Ting-ting-ting’ a mundane bell kept ringing for a few good minutes to wake up the stubborn students like me who were fond of sleeping. Some woke up as they were top rated hard working students, some did out of duty and I woke up because I didn’t want matron chasing after me with a stick again. ‘Eleven is heaven’ I had taken that seriously as I concentrated more on sleeping than studying.
It was a May morning, after washing and wrapping my hair with a towel, I came back to hostel and dressed to get ready for a mandatory morning studies.
I was combing my long hair when Kinzang, a class 9 student said “Sister, what happened to your hair?”
“What?” I combed my dripping hair.
“There is no hair on your head.” She looked horrified.
It was a futile prank they were trying on me as I was combing my long hair, I ignored her, preparing for morning studies.
All girls looked at me in a bizarre way undoing my nerves, I touched my head and there was nothing wrong.
“No. It is at the back side of your head.” I heard them saying. My hand followed their direction and encountered an empty patch of scalp. I felt it again and again in a disbelieve.
Positioning one mirror at back and another at front, I tried to look the back view of my head on the front mirror. After numerous tilting and repositioning, I finally saw the bald head of around 5-6cm diameter without a strand of hair. I was shocked, nothing more. I hurriedly gathered my books and went for morning studies.
Rumors spread fast, one by one, students came to see my bald head and started sharing all sorts of weird and scary stories; some considered it as a bad omen, while some said an evil spirit might have cast a spell on me, some said I might be suffering from cancer which can cause a loss of hair, while most of them said mythical old bald woman steals hair from an unfortunate and unlucky one, who was supposed to be me. Girls in the study room looked at me; some with fear in their eyes, some trying to
locate the bald portion on my head, some with sympathetic look and some avoided me like I had dreadful disease. I felt miserable and pathetic. Though my best friend, Thinley, asked me to ignore, I couldn’t.
Next day, there were two hairless patches on my head. Mystery of the situation was that it happened during night and there wasn’t even a single strand of hair on my bed; forget about the hundreds of hairs I lost overnight.
I was scared of the days as I felt every pairs of questioning eyes on me and I was scared of night as my hairs mysteriously vanished during night.
I was 16 then. I was broken completely and cried a lot after repeated incident for whole morning study hour. Cousins and friends covered the bald with the remaining hair and clipped it firmly. There was no energy and courage left in me. Thinley entwined my hand, lead me to the class and talked all the way as if nothing happened.
In the class, one of classmate asked me to confirm the rumor which was something like this. While I was in a dormitory, studying nearby window and someone dragged me from behind and next morning the hair was gone. I didn’t respond as I didn’t know how to.
During interval, I was called by matron and she inspected my hair. I was asked to change the room and sleep. She consoled me that the hair loss wasn’t a big deal and she rubbished all sorts of paranormal activities, she said if I believed in all those things, she asked me to sleep in her house. She said her house was well equipped to deal with as there was a big altar with the statues. I slept in her house with a class 12 student who was her niece. Again, there were hair losses not as big as first one but still hair disappeared.
It didn’t work, so matron asked me to change my room and stay awake at night. She suggested that I can stay with cousins in their hostel and they will take turn to stay awake with me. She called and briefed them to help me.
That afternoon, I cut my hair short. It was long and once loved hair but then it freaked hell out of me and I was scared of the same hair. I was scared to the extent that I was afraid of going to washroom even in a day. I was disturbed and eyes betrayed me with streaming tears. The place and time was eating me alive and I was helplessly lost in despair.
That night as instructed, cousins and friends took turn to stay with me, sharing not so funny jokes, cheering me, discussing movies, books, and boys and never letting me sleep. Frequently shaking me with force but gently when they saw me drifting to sleep and making me wash my face over and over.
At dawn, they let me sleep but one of them stayed awake watching me. I slept soundly.
It was a Sunday morning and girls were doing the mass cleaning outside when I woke up. Then I saw different avatar of Thinley, sitting at the edge of the bed. She had cut her long and cherished beautiful hair in exact style and length as mine. All I could do was open my mouth and gasped the air in a shock.
When I was able to, I asked “What did you do to your hair?”
Without a hint of regret, she smiled and said “Friends”.
I was speechless with the swelling emotions of gratitude and happiness. When I thought I couldn’t even stand, she held my hand and helped me to walk through the darkest hour of my life. Though younger than me, she showed me a true meaning of friendship.
It didn’t matter whether I had hair on head or not, what people talked behind me or those staring eyes because I had and still have a most amazing friend.