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You’ve seen them around, those dreadlocked creatures. There are two kinds (there’s a third variety too, the Bholenath fan seen in saffron or often nothing at all, but we’ll stick to the other commonly spotted ones): the ones who can carry the mountain on their heads and are everyone else’s envy; and the ones who just can’t pull it off and end up looking either too ‘hippie’ or wannabe or plain weird.

I was in the first category for a brief while. Getting them was easy. On my 21st birthday, in McLeod Ganj, I walked into a roadside barber’s with these tempting words painted on glass – ‘Make deadlocks’ – and walked out deadlocked. The owner of the guesthouse where I was staying smirked with the kind of experience that comes from seeing too many kids get conned in backpacker towns.

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Two years later when I went back to another barber in Manali, I had a football-sized mess at the back of my skull. It wasn’t letting me sleep light. The three British girls sitting behind me paled as they watched the barber chop it off, my boyfriend felt queasy. When I walked out I looked like Rajesh Khanna suffering from a bad hair day (took over a year to look anything feminine again!).

For those of you getting tempted to get ‘deadlocked’, I’ve managed to gather some advice from a Bombay guy with the dubious distinction of sporting possibly the longest rasta in the city. His dreads are 5 feet 6 inches long, and although he’s never engaged in lining up besides other people with dreadlocks to compare length, he’s well-known in Bombay’s party circles for hair that almost sweep the floor as he walks.

Why? Let me put it in his words: “One doesn’t need a reason to grow their hair/dreads, you need a reason to cut them – company/school/college policy, personal preference, nagging family/partner, etc. – I don’t have any…yet.” Here’s Avil D’Souza on dreadlocks.

IB: We hear you used to sport an afro. What led you towards rasta?

Divine intervention! I was always fascinated by dreadlocks and wanted to get them done. I worked alongside earning my college degree and started saving money to get my hair dreadlocked. Juice, in Bandra, was the only hair salon I knew back in 2003 that locked people’s hair, for 3k. Keep in mind that I was working part-time, made very little money and had books, clothes, alcohol and other such essentials to pay for. It took me over 6 months to save 1k. Around that time, my afro was growing by the day and had transformed into a six-and-a-half inch flower pot! I woke up one morning and noticed I had 6 mini-dreads on either sides (not joking here)….12 dreads overnight! Within a couple of days, my afro had transformed into dreadlocks. My hair was frizzy and was meant to lock at some point in time, so I think. Guess what I did with the 1k I had saved? 🙂

IB: Is dreadlock maintenance a pain? What are the cons of keeping dreads?

I wash my dreads at least once a day, twice on most days. Take care of your scalp, keep the dreads clean, it’s simple. Cons? – I don’t think there are any, there are minor inconveniences, for me and those around me. I end up slapping/hitting people with my hair when I’m dancing, have had my hair caught in..uhmmm everything from a car door to a chair’s wheel. Speaking of other kind of inconveniences, ask anyone with ankle-length dreads about their airport security experiences, I plan on writing a book about it some day.

IB: What is the best thing about having dreadlocks?

It’s not a hairstyle, it’s a lifestyle! For me, I guess it has to be the social interactions. I love making conversations, and because of the dreads, kids and grandmas alike want to talk, ask questions, raise concerns and share funny anecdotes. And did I mention, I’m offered free weed everywhere I travel haha.

Image Credit: Parikshit Rao

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