A loss that doesn't heal with time

Samarjit Kambam *

When I was young I used to gaze at my reflection on the looking mirror to find out whether I looked good or not. During those times the looking mirror was my best friend. I used to watch my image in the morning as soon as I climbed down from bed, after taking a shower, before going to school or college or whenever I was about to go outside be it an appointment with somebody, going for shopping or any other private work, after returning home and even before going to bed. Sitting in front of a looking mirror, preferably a wide and lengthy one was an inseparable constituent of my very existence during those yonder years.

Now-a-days I gawk at the looking mirror not to observe whether I am still looking good but to watch my reflection whether I look like a beast or a human being. To me, the looking mirror has turned from a friend to a foe. Now I am suffering from 'Looking Mirror Phobia'.

The main reason why I fear looking mirrors is my receding hairline since an unripe age. Unhealthy lifestyle and a life time of bad habits may be some of the factors that contribute to this horrible predicament. Now, for me, looking at the mirror has been restricted to once a day and there were days where I hardly looked at it except during the time of shaving.

My late dad was bald and among my brothers I am the one marked as not-so-lucky one as I have been gifted with unwanted genetic traits from my dear dad. During my college days my friends admired my bountiful hair and whenever I oiled my hair after a shower I could feel the heaviness of my hair bouncing in my hand which really was a 'feel good factor'.

But now my hair has become thinner, my hairline is receding fast and my once heavy mane has become lighter and lighter with each passing day. Now I am reaching the stage of Alopecia or MPB (Male Pattern Baldness) while many of my friends have not gone through this ordeal. I consider them quite lucky.

To me, the effect of receding hairline is disastrous. I assume that the others on the verge of getting bald experience the same ordeal as me. Every time I stand in front of a looking mirror, mental pain blows me. I feel less confident in interacting with people, as a result my public relation gets very low. Stress and tension build up inside my mind and my self esteem dips abysmally.

Many elders would say that it is the result of wearing shoes most of the time. Somebody would tell me that it is because of dandruff (but dandruff and me are miles apart). Someone would tell me that it's because of the wind blowing at the hair adjoining the forehead when you drive a two wheeler at high speed.

Somebody told me that it's a result of using too much shampoo, another one used to tell me that it's a result of too much thinking, some would say its for eating too much meat…too less meat..…too much fruit.…too less fruit…too much junk food, too much aerated drinks, blah blah blah…. Later on I found out that all those reasons and remarks poured upon me were nothing but craps.

At the initial stage I relied on Keo-Karpin Hair Vitalizer and other costly hair oils that promised hair growth but all such oils turned out to be damp squib. Once I saw an ad in the local newspaper of an ayurvedic hair oil made from rare herbs that promised new hair growth, restoration of lost hair or money back guarantee if the user doesn't get satisfied with the result.

I located the shop at Paona Bazaar but when I entered inside to buy the hair oil I saw a bald headed man at the counter with a host of medicine on the shelves. Before saying anything I simply hurried back. Desperate, I did some researching. During those times information was hard to find. Even though internet facility was available through telephone lines, modems were not in-built and we had to buy a modem separately.

The first modem I used cost Rs. 25000 with the brand name "American Robotics". Now, with that money you can possess a branded laptop with everything inbuilt. Search engines such as Mozilla, Firefox, Google etc were a distant dream. Besides, the connectivity was quite slow, too slow that cobwebs begin to develop between me and my PC before completion of a download. Me and my friends used to nomenclate the 'http//www' as "hyper time taking protocol//world wide wait". So I relied on newspapers, magazines, and various journals.

Gradually, I found out that alopecia is a genetic disorder wherein the sex hormone testosterone turned out to be the main culprit. When testosterone accumulates at the hair follicles, it gradually destroys the hair – first by thinning it and then killing the hair root, not to be reborn. I wondered what this hormone which is supposed hover inside the testicles, its rightful residence is playing a dual part by coming at the hair follicles just like a 'resident evil'. Well, it all turned out to be the handiwork of the programmed cluster of DNA molecules of the genes of the hair root cells.

Researchers have revealed that 'Minoxidil' a chemical component prescribed to patients with prostate disorders, after long-term consumption leads to growth of new hair at a slow rate. Even a topical solution containing Minoxidil to be applied on the head is available in medical stores now-a-days. I had tried oral consumption of Minoxidil for some months but instead of growth of new hair, I ended up having a weaker libido. Fearing of becoming sterile I gave up.

There is another type of Alopecia known as 'Alopecia areata' that affects about 2 per cent of the population which can occur at any age and is seen in both men and women; an auto-immune disease in which immune cells destroy hair follicles. Researchers at Columbia University Medical Center have found out that specific set of T cells that are responsible for attacking the hair follicles can be suppressed by two class of drugs known as JAK inhibitors – 'Ruxolitinib' used to treat Myelofibrosis, a rare bone marrow disease and 'Tofacitinib' used in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis and found that the drugs completely restored hair within 12 weeks of treatment.

But so far, it is yet to be recommended as medication for fighting baldness. After weighing the various pros and cons and approval from concerned government authorities, medicines with the above mentioned chemical components may get manufactured for public use to cure baldness. Till then, my dear bald headed guys, please keep your fingers crossed and lets keep our hopes alive.

Time heals wound. Time changes enemies into friends and friends into enemies. Time changes strangers to friends, friends to lovers and marriage to divorce. Time is a great healer to the ones who have lost their near and dear ones. But the mental effects of receding hairline and thinning of the mane which was once your crowning glory gets worse as time passes by. The sinking feeling associated with it is more acute than post traumatic stress disorder(PTSD) for PTSD doesn't affect every time you look at a mirror but receding hairline does.

I can self-procrastinate that I would go completely bald by five or six years from now. Sometimes I remember those years of 'sweet surrender' where there were instances of proposals which I received from female colleagues in college. But now I am the centre of attraction of female mosquitoes only.

Later on I found out that the best solution is micro follicular hair transplant where the hair from the regions of the head that never gets bald are taken out and planted on the bald regions including the follicle of each strand like planting crops in an open field. But this surgery cost a hefty amount and will leave a big hole in your pocket for it involves specialised doctors, advanced medical equipments and painstakingly time consuming.

One fine day I even proposed to my wife that I want to go for micro-follicular hair transplant but when she learnt the fact that it would cost around Rs. 1.5 to 2 lakh she highly objected at the exorbitant cost and bitterly replied, "Don't you know that you have already got two kids?, From where does that silly idea come from? Are you having a girlfriend or what?" Even though it was a fine and sunny day it rained in my heart after hearing her reply. She continued, "I fell in love with you for being the kind of person that you are. It has got nothing to do with your hair". She further continued that it would make more sense to save the amount for the future of the kids. I realised that her remarks were really pragmatic.

There's one thing I would like to share. It seems like the wives seem happy when their husbands get bald. My instinct tells me that wives whose husbands with roving eyes seem to feel secure when their husbands get bald for their philander husbands won't approach any other girl, lady or woman if they are bald for fear of being rejected by the opposite sex. Have you ever heard of filing a divorce by a wife because her husband is bald? So far I haven't come across any.

The fastest and temporary quick-fix solution for bald headed guys is to wear a wig that matches their facial structure or camouflaging which are non-surgical and not so expensive. Another better solution is to get contented by inculcating in our minds that being bald is one of human natures just like getting white hair at an early age.

I don't envy affluent and opulent class of people, I envy old persons with thick mane and beautiful hair whose hairline do not recede no matter how old they are. Now I have decided not to care a damn about my receding hairline as long as my wife doesn't give a damn about it.

* Samarjit Kambam wrote this article for The Sangai Express
This article was posted on March 06, 2016.

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