Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Indian Hair - it's everywhere!

I just watched the documentary "Good Hair" last night, where Chris Rock goes on a quest to learn more about the lengths black women will go to (and some men) to get "relaxed" hair. Oh man, it was enlightening. I cannot believe the pain and inconvenience they go through...and the expense! Holy cow! thousandssssssssss of dollars. I'm done complaning about my hair that started going gray when I was 13....NBD, color it once a month and I'm good to go - NOTHING compared to sitting in a chair for hours while chemicals eat away my scalp or my hair is pulled tight into braids that then have hair sewn to them, and not being able to get my hair wet EVER. Wow.

So, anyways, you might be asking how this relates to armchair travels in India. Turns out, some of the most prized hair for weaves comes from India. Sometimes this hair is called "temple hair" because it is often procured when donors shave their hair as part of a ritual offering to the gods....which then fuels a multi-billion dollar industry.  The hair used to be used as mattress stuffing, but now temples have contracts with particular companies and the money is supposed to go to the poor and to pilgrims, but there is little documentation of the proper usage of the money.

A woman sacrificing her hair (tonsuring).

Most of the work in the factories is done by hand - sorting, washing. The long lengths are the most valuable and journey west - destined for high fashion and glamour. The orders keep coming in the and the industry is booming. 

An Indian hair factory worker sorting through many people's sacrificed hair.

Final product
I've heard some people talk about getting transplants of body parts who think a lot about the person who donated their heart/kidney/liver, etc. I know that's a different situation as it is a life-giving sacrifice, but I wonder if many people who use Indian hair sometimes think about the women who gave their hair...think about their lives, recognize where their hair comes from, feel a kinship of sorts with women on the other side of the globe...

Here's a documentary that explains the industry step-by-step.