Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The case of the disappearing choti

When I was a kid, I always had my hair tied into two chotis. Like all the other girls I knew. And aunts. And grannies. Tying a choti was a ritual, the time for mother-daughter bonding. Twice a day, choti- time was when all the chit-chat would happen.
The little girls had two plaits and the older women had one. Some insecure women needed a rubberband at the end of their chotis. Most women didn’t. They just left it like that. Those were the days beauty quotient was measured by the length of your choti.
And if you think the choti was unfashionable, think again. Nowadays when you have a particular hairdo, you’re stuck with it till your next haircut. There’s scarcely anything you can do. But chotis were so very versatile. To start with, you could experiment with parting your hair. Three different looks just with the plain choti – centre parting, side parting and no parting. Tie a high choti for the no-nonsense look that, despite its sternness, highlights your sharp features. Or a loose choti for the casual, relaxed look. Two chotis, I think, were the I’m-still-a-little-girl look.
All this just with the plain choti. There was this neighbor who could tie some 14 different kinds of chotis. Every girl in the area would go her in case of any function. Strangely, those weren’t times anyone charged for stuff like that. It was just. “Bhabhi, choti bana do.”
Me, I know 3 types of them. The regular choti that’s tied inside out, the ulta choti that’s tied outside in, and of course the french plait. We all called it the ‘Sagar choti’ because Dimple Kapadia had worn it in the film ‘sagar’. I never got to see the movie (it was for adults only) but I know the sagar choti very well. Every shaadi, the women wanted the sagar choti.
And the choti made for really cool hairdos, you know. You could put little flowers, one at each intersection in the choti. Or you could have a gajra run along the length of the choti. Wannabes had to pin the gajra. The real cool babes would simply pass the gajra expertly through the choti itself, no pins needed. Talking about cool babes, remember the choti length : sexiness ratio we spoke of earlier? So the cool thing was to have a choti-supplement so your hair appeared longer than it was. Nakli hair was the hot accessory. And that long, colourful thingy with little bells at the end. I think it’s called ‘paranda’ in Punjabi. Strangely I never found out the Telugu word for it.
But then, most Telugu hotties didn’t need it. They had seriously long chotis. I remember this wedding I’d been to where this girl had a choti that reached her ankles. Her mother was beaming all evening as several ‘aunties’ queued up to have a word with her.
With long chotis you had even more options. Tie the choti into a bun, so it looks really fancy. Or better still, tie a round bun with the choti coming out of its centre. What styles there used to be!
When you were getting intimate with a girl, the first step would be to pull her choti to tease her. Holding hands came much later. And there were other things people did, like tying the choti to the bench etc. All in all, the choti was an integral part of the scenery.
Today it’s disappearing real fast, don’t you think? I think the last time chotis were hot, they were on the heads of Sridevi and Jaya Prada. After that, they went extinct. Recently I actually sat and saw a bollywood song on tv because Sonam Kapoor had a choti. It was the Masakali song, I think.
In my family, there was only one choti-waali aunt left. She was in Hyderabad. She came to Mumbai to see us after a long, long time. The first thing I noticed about her was the clip holding her shoulder length hair in place. There goes the last of the chotis, I thought.
I guess there will be a time when, like all fads, it’ll be back. And little girls will say (as their mothers tie their chotis, of course) , “Ma, tell about those barbaric times when women never tied their hair.” Then, 'letting your hair down' will again become a relevant phrase.