My work in Chennai was enormously different from anything I had done before.
I was practicing dermatology in an affluent city catering to the rich and famous. Every other patient was a VIP. Over the years they would have seen every dermatologist in town and some would even have seen specialists outside the state and country. When they arrived for their appointments they would have files bulging with prescriptions. Sometimes I would have to search with a magnifying glass with all the halogens on, to find the blemish that had caused fresh wrinkles on some ageing socialite face. I got impatient with a nation that was so preoccupied with getting fair. I got irritated with the fairness creams that screamed out of the TV sets to keep the cosmetic industry booming. Everyone wanted to get fair.
Slowly I began to realise that the scars on a teenager struggling with acne were as deep as the ulcers on a leprosy patient’s foot. The blemish on a pretty face is as mutilating as an amputated limb. Perception of body image varies from person to person. Dysmorphism is real. It did not live in a person’s head.
Each one has a complaint that needed to be addressed and treated no matter how trivial it may seem. If a patient cried that her hair was coming out in clumps when she bathed, I listened carefully because it was destroying her peace of mind. Once-upon-a-time-hair-on-the-head was more than a protective thermo-regulator against the elements and the sun. To some this is still its primary function, though anecdotes from history have curious tales about hair.
In a weak moment Samson told Delilah that his strength lay in his hair and paid for it when she had it cut off in his sleep. Rapunzel, imprisoned by the wicked witch let down her hair for her prince to scale up the tower. Lady Godiva drove through the streets of London wearing only her hair while Tom peeped through the window to get the reputation that he did. Through the ages hair has grown to become a valuable asset in grooming. Hair loss in any of its diverse forms is devastating. It does not matter if the hair loss is congenital or acquired, diffuse or local, of slow onset or sudden, associated with disease or deficiency. The horror experienced is the same in all cases and in both genders when disbelief, panic and acute embarrassment pan out to paranoia. In some the preoccupation with hair loss can grow to desperate levels, experimenting with every new hair product that is bought. Often these gather dust as they join many other products on the bathroom shelf. The options in hair restoration range from temporary measures to permanent techniques with several zeroes between them and no guarantees in results, I have a poster in my waiting room that shows a profile of on eagle with a tuft of feathers around his smooth head. The caption reads God made so many perfect heads, the rest he covered with hair. Good for a laugh but not good enough for the balding pate.
This might seem as trivia when the mind recalls the amputated limb of a leprosy patient. But to someone losing hair it can appear to be the end of the world.
Nobody seems to be happy with the kind of hair they. Straight hair wants curly. Curly wants straight. Each spend time and money warming chairs in beauty parlours damaging their hair. The curly haired spend time and energy ironing out their hair, damaging the keratin bonds that hold the hair shaft with its tensile strength. Time pushes the hair shafts out and the hair that grows back is the genetic kind and no respecter of previous temporary treatment plans. Nature’s spring back to normal rule does however ensure more visits for hair treatment and more money spent playing musical chairs.
When we moved to the ECR, I shifted my clinic in Spencer Plaza to a clinic in Neelangarai on the east coast road. I joined the Fortis Malar Hospital and moved to The Global Hospital when we moved to the Bollineni Hillside on the OMR Road