Here is a curl story right from the heart. Having met Nupur in person, I can vouch for her energy, grace and spirit. And I can vouch for her curls, which shall not be tamed.
Nupur Saraswat is a passionate stage performer, who brings dramatic hands and eyes to the stage along with her bold words. She is one of the finalists of Singapore’s National Poetry Slam 2015, and part of TEDx 2016. At an age of 22, she is a lot of things – an environmental engineer, a writer, a digital marketer, and a spoken word artist. But more than anything else, she is ‘that girl with a flower in her curly hair at all times’ .
Do check out her facebook page Beasts of Bed and Battlefield to follow her work.
My father tells me that the first time he saw my mother he fell in love with her hair. Her hair was soft and silky and straight and black and cared for like a princess’s. They reached up until her lower back and swayed along with her hips when she walked. At 47, my mother’s hair has retained its glory. And so has her slender figure.
I look nothing like my mother. My hair twists like a pig’s tail at every end. My hips take too much space on the train. My breasts take too much space on my body. I look nothing like my mother.
As I child, I would bring home a head full of leaves, dirt, lice, and spitballs from school. My mother would shampoo and scrub for hours. Then she would oil and brush before letting me go out again. On weekends, my aunts would come over and straighten my hair with electric iron rods. It wasn’t long before I realized that I was a witch being brought up by princesses. It wasn’t long before I realized that my body offended people.
In the years I was growing up, girls around me were getting sent back home from school for wearing skirts too short. I was used to getting sent back for letting my long, black, curly hair down. My teachers would complain that my hair was improper for an educational institute. I would try to explain that I did tie my hair up that morning but the fucking hair tie broke on the way to school. Even then, I tried to frantically search for another one in my bag mostly because I had learned that my hair, unlike anyone else’s around me, was an inconvenience.
At 15, I left my mother’s comfortable suburban home to get an education in Singapore. She packed me a hair straightener, a wooden hair brush, and an underwired bra a size too big. The women around me taught me how to be “reserved”, how to blend in, how to lay low, how to fit in. They taught me how to not attract spitballs in my hair.
My cousin sister had the same pig tail hair like me. We grew up together until the day I left the country. In my mind, she was always a witch like me – being brought up by the same set of princesses. Today she is 22. She has chemically straightened hair. She has a husband who smiles a lot, and a beautiful, beautiful baby boy. And, she has chemically straightened hair. They don’t curl up any more. I think they gave up on her. I, on the other hand, wasn’t a very good listener. I was 19 when I stopped torturing my hair into submission. I let them be. I let me be. Today I am 22. I live alone. I have half of a Bachelor’s degree. I have a love life that could fill pages but no lover to speak of.
And I have a tattoo on my back that says “twisted and mine”. It’s a reminder of my hair, my body, and my story. It’s twisted and its mine. In my own way, it’s a silent rebellion against the women who brought me up. Women who, time and again, asked me to change my clothes for being too provocative. The women who asked me to tame my hair for being unsightly.
It’s a reminder that my hair is not the problem. It’s a reminder that my clothes were not the problem. They were.