Sunday, April 21, 2024

SATURDAY’S CHILD: Getting a head in life


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If there is a typical West Indian sport it is not “choke-and-rob” since that has not spread through the Caribbean as widely as its inventors or, to put it another way, has not grabbed or held the attention of the rest of the Caribbean as it does in its native country.  
It is definitely not “bob-ball” as Trinis pronounce the local term for corruption. In fact, the “all” part of it might take in the entire country but is not so rife in the rest of the region to constitute either unanimity or ubiquity.  
“Weeding”, or the use of a controlled vegetable substance cannabis, is a growing indulgence but is still legally prohibited and the police are always sniffing around to arrest its aficionados. This leaves “jumping to conclusions” at the zenith of our regional sporting predilections and the high-water mark of our integration.  
We share with the great sports heroes the fact that we start with visualization, a process by which we map out the route to success, and then we end with world records for the greatest leap, either of faith or imagination.
This is how, I suppose, the belief that baldness and riches go together.  
In Trinidad the possession of an insubstantial head of hair, or any other proof of wealth, a Porsche or BMW, immediately attracts the attention of criminals.   
Toupees do not fool them, wigs do not deceive them. They know that a pate as bald as a billiard ball lurks under the luxurious weave and a fortune awaits them.       
My wife knows better. Having lived with me for the past 16 years, she is fully aware that there is at least one exception to the rule and that it disproves rather than proves the rule.
With the passing years, my hair loss has progressed at an alarming rate. I am not yet so bald that when people look at my head they can see what I’m thinking. I am almost at the stage that when some careless motorist heads directly towards me, I don’t turn a hair. I am turning the corner though and am almost there.
During the Cold War I could have explained that I have nuclear hair – plenty fallout. The story of Aeschylus, the Greek playwright, is depressing. Legend has it that in his part of the world eagles had developed a unique solution to separating tortoises from their shells. The eagles picked up the tortoises with their talons and dropped them on the rocks far below. An eagle mistook the bald head of the playwright for a rock and dropped the turtle on him, killing him instantly. It was a Greek tragedy.
So, there I was, sitting on the sofa, indoors and safe from passing eagles, watching with eagle eyes the televised cricket and glorying in the fact that although Jonathan Trott is younger than me, his hair loss is greater, and that Jacques Kallis, were it not for his having earned enough money from the Indian Premier League (IPL) to pay for a weave, would have been in the same position. Even Wayne Rooney, at 26, has temporarily and possibly, surgically, covered his baldness.  
Then I felt those fingers that used to run through and ruffle my hair, massaging my scalp. Then, my wife jokingly said, “Where are those billions you are supposed to have by now?” “Well,” I responded immediately, “I spent them on research on hair loss.”
Actually, the hope that springs eternally in the human breast has now climbed the ladder of success and is residing somewhere in the follicles. According to Science Daily, a gene that causes hair loss has been discovered. Scientists at Bonn and Düsseldorf Universities have discovered an important hair loss gene.
During their study, the researchers investigated over 500 000 positions in the human genome, and found a gene variant which occurs clearly more frequently in bald men than in control persons. In 2005, these scientists had already characterized the first hair loss gene inherited through the maternal line, which explained why hair loss in men often reflects that of their maternal grandfathers. Now they’re saying that what this particular gene shows is that if your father is bald you are likely to become bald also.
In some ways I could say it is a bald lie. But I refrain since my two sons use my lack of hair as a family joke. When I once paid $20 for a haircut, my son George said that I had overpaid. I should only have paid $10 because the barber had less hair to cut.  
My other son Zubin runs his hands over my scalp and grins. I say meaningfully, “Look at my pictures. My hair was once long and thick. Yours will suffer the same fate.” They don’t believe me. They feel it will never happen to them. Just wait . . .
Except that when I feel the top of my head, there is hair there but when I look in the mirror I see these little wisps sticking out of a shining example of self-deception. I suppose it is a trade-off. I have less hair to comb but more face to wash. As they say, hair today gone tomorrow.


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