Mission Delhi – Namita Gokhale, South Delhi
One of the one percent in 13 million.
[Text and photo by Mayank Austen Soofi]
She is an acclaimed author and lit-fest director, with successful daughters, a frank disposition and a comfortable book-filled home in south Delhi—seemingly uniting some of the best blessings of existence. Her timeless beauty and gracious manners are complemented by a heart-winning smile and grey hair.
The last bit is new. For all these years, Delhi society has known Namita Gokhale with brown hair. “I stopped colouring them since last year’s lockdown,” she reveals, referring to the pandemic-driven closure when almost every place shut down for weeks. Ms Gokhale visited the salon only twice, for haircut, in these months of the pandemic.
“I’m 65, and was ready to go grey… lockdown gave me a perfect opportunity.”
The look has received mixed reviews, even though her public appearances have been few so far. These include a small and carefully curated garden party held just before the second surge where she was sighted in a long kurta and lehenga, with green-rimmed glasses (see photos).
“Most of my male friends across different generations have been full of approval, telling me that grey is really suiting me.” She was more surprised by women acquaintances. “One elderly lady asked in horror, ‘Kya ho gaya (what happened)?’.” Ms Gokhale amusedly describes the reaction of a venerable black-haired relative “coming straight from a beauty parlour, with telltale signs of black dye lined along her forehead.”
Other women responded more favourably, sharing the sense of liberation they felt once they stopped colouring themselves. “It’s a process of rediscovering your face.”
Ms Gokhale’s going grey has broken a long-time tradition. Soon after recovering from cancer in her mid-30s, she opted for the dye on noticing strands of white in her hair. “I just felt like colouring.” The monthly appointment became a routine. Those 40 minutes in the salon would be meditative, at times giving her fresh ideas for life and work. Sometimes she would chat with her stylists, who grew to become friends—such as Salim, Kapil Kumar Chouhan and Mohammad Usman.
Contented with her Covid-era coiffure, Ms Gokhale declares “my hair is stronger and healthier since I stopped colouring, I’m enjoying my grey.”
[This is the 410th portrait of Mission Delhi project]
Her Covid Grey