Mission Delhi – Asha Jain, Anand Lok
One of the one percent in 13 million.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
She could be from the fairy tale Rapunzel with that glowing white hair cascading down to her ankles.
It’s almost bewitching. What could be the secret behind it?
A trained classical singer, Asha Jain shrugs her shoulders with the indifference of a woman perhaps weary of compliments in her 80-something years. “Oh, but really,” she says modestly. “My hair has been falling for the past 15 years!”
The Delhi Walla is at her cottage in south Delhi’s upscale Anand Lok where she finally reveals the secret.
“I never use a hair dryer!” Though she shampoos her hair every Sunday, and until a few years ago she regular washed her hair with “sheekakai, amla and reetha pounded together and soaked overnight.”
Of course there might also be something genetic when blessed with these kind of tresses. Ms Jain’s mother also had gorgeous hair, and so did two cousins — “but they cut their hair!”
We’re joined by her daughter Priya who suddenly speaks out. “Mamma, you’re sitting on your hair!” Priya, as well, is the proud possessor of fine hair, though not quite as long. Until her marriage at age 21, Ms Jain used Jawakusum oil, but her husband complained it smelled like kerosene.
She switched to coconut oil. In those bygone years Ms Jain would daily wear a gajra of bela flowers plucked from her garden at their old home in Patna. At night, she would hang the gajra in front of the AC, suffusing the bedroom with its sweet scent.
We stroll out into the present garden where Ms Jain points to a sprawling Hong Kong orchid tree. It, too, is gorgeous.
She planted it in her husband’s memory after he passed away some 25 years ago. Now Ms Jain’s daughter carefully unties her braid, untangling the intertwined hair like the precious gift that indeed it is.
[This is the 141st portrait of Mission Delhi project]
The Rapunzel of Anand Lok