Dreadlocks of 100th woman cut by MANS

Prajakta Joshi
Thursday, 11 April 2019

Convincing women to distance themselves from dreadlock-related superstitions is daunting, says Nandini Jadhav

PUNE: Teary-eyed but still smiling, Janabai Shripati Taru on Monday got rid of the tangled or matted hair (dreadlocks) that she had been holding on to for the past two years. 

She was the 100th woman in Pune district to get her dreadlock cut from Nandini Jadhav of Maharashtra Andhashraddha Nirmoolan Samiti (MANS).

The burden of superstitions is quite heavy, figuratively as well as literally. While MANS has helped 100 women in the district to get rid of their naturally caused dreadlocks (‘Jata’ in Marathi), there is a long way to go as over 400 women in the district have dreadlocks.

Till now, Jadhav has helped 108 women in Maharashtra.

“The dreadlocks, that are mostly caused because of lack of hygiene and uncombed hair, have received a superstitious and religious appropriation. The women are made to believe that if they cut their hair off, something bad will happen to them,” Jadhav explained.

“In a God-fearing society, it is easy to scare people in the name of religion. These people usually go to some Godmen who makes them keep the dreadlocks. The women are told they will lose their husband or son if they remove it,” the activist stated.

“I feel very light. It’s like a burden has been taken off my head,” a visibly emotional Taru expressed.

“It’s a long process of counselling that precedes the cutting of the dreadlocks. Superstitions and fears are ingrained deep in our minds. As soon as I receive information about such cases, I first establish contact with these women and make them realise how the dreadlock is bad and needs to be cut off. Only when they are ready and consent, the hair is cut off,” Jadhav explained.

Being a professional beautician herself, Jadhav insists on not cutting off the hair in an uneven fashion or going bald. She makes sure the woman gets a good look.

She said, “In a society where hair is considered to be one of the major parts of a woman’s beauty, women fear to cut their hair.” 

Considering that too, she finds it necessary to tell them that losing dreadlock does not mean losing all their hair.

INHUMAN DREADLOCKS
Jadhav recalls how the case of an 11-year-old girl was tricky. “I received information that a young girl in Ghavar village at the foot of Rajgad fort had a huge dreadlock in her hair. After days and months of counselling, my team and I finally reached the village to convince the mother, who thought that she would lose her sons if the daughter’s hair is cut. But it was the whole village that we had to convince,” she said.

After four hours, Jadhav finally got the green signal to the girl’s lice-infested hair. “The girl was alienated at school due to her tangled hair and lice. She was made to sit separately and could not play with others. It was horrifying. She could have endangered her life due to infection in her scalp,” Jadhav said.

ALL COMMUNITIES, ALL CLASSES
“I have contacts of around 187 women who I am presently counselling. These women come from all types of communities and professions. Even the educated ones, working at IT companies, banks, living in posh houses live with these superstitions,” Jadhav said.

In another case in Mumbai recently, she cut off a 6.5 feet long dreadlock that the girl had been carrying for 15 years. The dreadlock kept her away from school, job, and has also been an obstacle for her to get married. The relief from the dreadlock was, thus, truly liberating for her.

MISLED TO BELIEVE
- The 100th case, Taru was caring for her ailing husband and did not remove the dreadlocks as she had been told that it would help save him. He passed away a month ago. 
- Finally realising that her husband’s life had nothing to do with her tangled hair, she finally mustered the courage and approached MANS to cut them off. 

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