My brother Manoj started graying when he had not even reached his teens. He also started wearing prescription glasses around the same time. It is only now, over 40 years later, that age appropriate to the color of his hair is catching up with him. After dying his hair for the better part of the last four decades he has decided to let his natural silvery white shine through. I have been telling him for almost as long as he has been dying his hair not to, well, dye it. I too have been graying since my early 20s but not nearly fast enough for my tastes.
This morning Manoj sent me this picture and I was reminded of an incident, cruelly hilarious at that time and now simply hilarious, that happened to him when he was 12 or 13. He returned from school one day sobbing uncontrollably. A 12-year-old in his nerdy glasses with visible stretches of gray sobbing was a fairly funny sight for me, two years his junior. And then he compounded it by telling our mother—my father had strategically passed away well before that—about why he was crying.
It seems an older man, who was on the bus with him that morning, had teased him by calling him “Kaka”, which in Gujarati is used for older men, although it can also mean uncle. For a 12-year-old to be called “Kaka” would have been brutal. I feel like saying ‘Ouch!’ now. Then, of course, I had laughed because I thought the description was apt with gray hair and glasses. Manoj laughs about it now and is secure enough to stop dying his hair. He asked me this morning of whom his picture reminded me. I said our grandmother and uncle but forgot to mention that his nose is almost exactly like former Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mulayam Singh Yadav. If Yadav ever needs a nose double, Manoj is willing to offer his services for a reasonable price. If there are hand and leg models, why not nose models?
Since I am writing about Manoj, I might as well plug the castle heritage hotel that he manages for a family in Rajasthan. The Ghanerao castle was built in 1606 and its location offers a uniquely Rajasthani experience. I have not been there but from what Manoj describes it, it seems like an ideal place for a break. Those of you interested in visiting this edge of a preserve hotel should check out the website or contact Manoj Chhaya at firstname.lastname@example.org
P.S.: Speaking of being called “Uncle” the other day a woman, decidedly older and visibly more frail than me, called me “Uncle.” It was so ironic that I let that pass. It appeared to me that by calling me uncle she seemed to regain some of her long lost youth.