January 31, 2013. 5.30 am. Silicon Valley.
The peal of my ringtone pierced the dark, as I groped in my sleep for the ‘phone. “They’re taking him in,” said a familiar voice at the other end. “I’m on my way,” I responded before the line went dead and adrenalin kicked in. Three hours later, I was buckling my seat belt as the aircraft taxied on the runway, ready to begin its transatlantic journey.
January 30, 2013. Time unknown. The Mumbai-Pune Expressway.
He was all of 28 and engaged to be married at the end of the year. His fiance was an ICU nurse at a prominent South Bombay hospital. That is all we know of him, other than the fact that the crash killed him instantly. And in his death, he gave a new lease of life through his organs to no less than five people, my loved one among them.
Present day. Silicon Valley.
It’s been more than two years since the incidents above. I’ve moved homes, switched jobs, acquired another car, waddled through a pregnancy, and now have an infant (yes, we graduated from Senior Newborn last month!) Yet, there has not been a day since January 31, 2013 that I have not blessed and thanked this young man’s soul for his generosity, foresight, and incredible humanity. There has not been a day since January 31, 2013 that I have not pondered on how to pay it forward. Finally, last November, two days before our Liebling made his appearance, I took the plunge.
Ever since I can remember, my hair has been a topic of discussion. Friends and strangers would admire it at social events, Daddy would be upset every time I cut it, guys in college wrote shayaris and poems about it, and you folks were so generous in your compliments even when it wasn’t the point of the post. I suppose I took it for granted, because I’ve always been somewhat indifferent to it, maintaining that it is my mum’s genes and father’s regular oiling–and nothing I did–that are to be credited. I’ve worn it long, short, and every length in-between. It’s been occasionally highlighted, been its natural color and texture for most of its life cycle, and kept generally clean but otherwise not particularly obsessed over. Even now, with a few strands of white in it, I feel no dismay, for it is but the natural progression of things and vanity is not among my many faults. And yet, I can imagine what it must feel like to lose it. To have to go out in public and have people stare because you don’t conform to the norm. To have the choice of whether to grow it long or chop it off taken away from you. And because I can give no other organ while I am alive, and really wanted someone to benefit from it, I decided to give away my hair to Locks of Love.
Two days before our son was born, the Boy, somewhat sad but supportive as always, drove me to the salon and my trusted stylist Stefanie took care of things.
It was quick, painless, and joyful. Some little one somewhere (or two, since Stefanie said it was a lot of hair) would have a wig of natural hair to make their cancer journey easier. A weight, both literal and metaphorical, had been lifted off my head. And the smile on my Boy’s face as I walked out assured me he approved as well.
That was more than 3 months ago. Since then, I’ve enjoyed my shorter, more manageable locks that gently graze my shoulders and keep out of my busy way. I’m grateful for the shorter length, since my baby has taken to grabbing strands with gusto. I may very well be as bald as him soon if this continues. And because childbirth has given me a newfound and immense respect for the human body, I will know better than to take it for granted when it grows back.
The purpose of this post is to share what’s been in my heart and on my mind, and to humbly request you to think about it as well. It is such a miniscule act in the face of that nameless young man’s charity that I would be embarrassed if you praised it. (So don’t!) Do think about being an organ donor. Each of us has the power to bestow life. And in the meantime, if all you have to give is your hair, you can now do it in India as well. Someday, it will age, grey, and fall off anyway. But as long as it’s healthy and on your head, you’ve got a lot more than a child who could do with some.
Have you ever committed to donating an organ? Please share in the comments section and inspire the rest of us.
And pssst! You guys are the first to know: I’m planning to grow it so I can do this again. :)