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     Volume 8 Issue 56 | February 6, 2009 |

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In Praise of the Bald

Syed Badrul Ahsan

Let us watch the sun sink on the other side of the river and speak of bald men. You ask why? Lady, have you never noticed that men who are losing hair or have already lost it are no more the centre of gravity they once might have been? Here's a hint of how swiftly they dwindle into insignificance: the balding Prufrock went on doing the best he could to convince all the charming women around him that he too had a heart that throbbed with romance and sensuality. No one paid any attention. He felt like a crab. He thought he would have to wear his trousers rolled at the bottom.

See the predicament of the bald? You laugh, woman, because you think it is all so funny, even queer. But that is the unvarnished truth. Young balding men go through an inferno finding brides for themselves. No beautiful young women will ever dream of going around with men with dwindling hair. You know, it doesn't have to be that way. Look at the bright side. Go back to a bit of history as you have seen it shape up before your watchful, twinkling eyes. Henry Paulson, he of the US Treasury until a few weeks ago, went on the media day after day trying to hold back the recession that is now claiming jobs around the world. You do not like a recession. No one does, you bet. But Paulson's bald head? Now, there's a shining specimen of intellectual brilliance. You can't take your eyes off the man, tall with that glint all over the head.

You roll in laughter? Consider, though, the idea we call pointy-headed intellectuals. That is a term of endearment, perhaps grudging admiration. You will never find such brilliant men among those with hair. Hairy men may be good men, but the bald ones are better, if you think over it deeply. Julius Caesar was nearly bald by the time he was killed. He was a brave man too. Now, my love, how's this for another thought: all the brave men we have generally known have also been men with declining hair or no hair at all? Would Winston Churchill deliver that brave 'blood, toil, tears and sweat' exhortation if he had a full head of hair? And then, let's be serious, there was the bald Gandhi who beat the British colonial power through his staying power. Here, love, wipe away those tears of hilarity with this handkerchief. Remember Jawaharlal Nehru? He was bald. And Edwina Mountbatten found him exotic, to a point where she fell head over heels in love with him.

Go back to those black and white days of the 1960s, to images of Charles de Gaulle as he staked out an independent position for France in the councils of the world. His baldness gave him gravitas, set him apart from other politicians and raised him to the pedestal of statesmanship. Everyone else --- Kennedy, Johnson, Macmillan, Brezhnev --- was overshadowed. Even the arrogant Richard Nixon listened to him with deference and deep awe. See, lady, how bald men make all the difference in the world? Adlai Stevenson was bald. He read widely, thought extensively. Nikita Khrushchev's baldness was in essence a statement. It shone at the United Nations in 1960. And it positively made an impact when he engaged Nixon in the so-called kitchen debate in Moscow a year earlier.

Yul Brynner

The truth, beloved, is that men with hair are fairly regularly overshadowed by men without hair. Picasso was bald. George C. Scott played Patton in the movie. Neither man had hair, but both had a combustible temper. Which made them extremely desirable. Yul Brynner was a brilliant man who mesmerized us with his 'et cetera et cetera et cetera' refrain in The King and I. Take it from me, pretty woman, it was that slick oily shine of Brynner's scalp that made so many women I know, or knew, fantasise about him. And that's the truth, by God!

Shakespeare was nearly bald. That gave him a clear-headed ability to think things through. Observe the output . . . all those inimitable plays! Benjamin Franklin's head glistened at all times of day and night. Have you ever thought of the brain inside that shining skull? My Akhmatova, remember the baldness in Isaiah Berlin? Don't these tales tell you that great thoughts begin to sprout inside the head once the hair on top of it begins to fall away in the manner of yellowing leaves in autumn? Ah, there's another idea for you. It is always the bare branches of trees, denuded of leaves by the blasts of winter, that remind you of Creation.

And so what is bare is actually what is real. Bald men, most of them, have great sex appeal. You have Henry Miller to substantiate your tale. Anais Nin loved him to distraction, right till the end.

Bald men do not worry about banalities. Combs they do not need and oil they do not require. Shampoo would be a superfluity. The wind does not ruffle them the way it does men weighed down by hair.

Ah, but enough for now! Come, my lady, and let me play with your long waist-hugging hair as the moon stands still, stunned by the beauty rising from your soft skin. Must you go so soon?

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