Sometimes contest themes just get in my hair. Continuously putting my grey cells to use coming up with ideas for an interesting post keeping with the contest topic is giving me grey hairs. You might have guessed it. The theme for this topic is hair problems. The greatest problem for me at this moment is writing something interesting about hair. But when cool tablets and mobile phones are at stake, wouldn't you be ready to literally pull your hair out to win? I hope the readers don’t find this attempt of mine to present a beautiful hair story too hare brained.
This is a story of my visit to this new town. My hair has grown long and I want to have a haircut. I am told that there are 3 barbers in town – Arvind, Balaji and Chandran. The people in town tell me that Chandran is the best barber. We all want nothing but the best, don’t we? So I decide if have a haircut, it has to be from Chandran only. But if I enter the barber shop; it would be rude to come out without a haircut in case Chandran is not there. So I have to determine beforehand whether Chandran is inside or not. Since the shop is open, at least one of them is definitely inside. Then the townsfolk tell me that if Arvind goes out, he always takes Balaji with him as he is nervous to go out alone. Now I had just read this Japanese best seller Devotion of Suspect X and had begun to believe mathematics can solve every problem. So I decide to apply mathematics to my hair problem. If you mathematically want to prove something is true, you assume it is false and then show that the assumption causes a contradiction.
So I assume Chandran is not inside. So if Arvind is not inside, Balaji is also not inside as Arvind never goes out without Balaji. So if he has gone out, he has taken Balaji also along with him. On the other hand if Arvind is not inside, Balaji must be inside as there are only 3 barbers and if the barber shop is open and neither Arvind nor Chandran is inside, Balaji has to be inside since he is the only one remaining. So we have 2 statements. If Arvind is not inside, Balaji is not inside. If Arvind is not inside, Balaji is inside. Balaji can’t be inside and outside at the same time unless he is an electron. And I am sure electrons don’t cut hair. So we have our contradiction and hence Chandran must be inside to avoid the contradiction. So I confidently stride in.
When I walk in, I find out that my mathematical intuition has indeed been right. Chandran is inside. Arvind and Balaji have apparently shifted to the next town 3 months back. So now the town has just one barber. Due to that there is a huge queue. I can see a board put up prominently. “By the order of the mayor, every male citizen shall get his hair cut once every 2 months. No man shall cut his own hair nor have his hair cut by anyone other than the town barber” As I wait in the queue I have lot of time on my hands. I am now pondering how the barber would be able to follow the mayor’s order. Either he does not cut his hair every 2 months, he cuts it himself or he gets it cut by someone other than the town barber. Either way he violates the mayor’s law. So the barber’s very existence itself is against the law. But without a barber the whole town itself would be going against the law. So being in this town itself did not seem lawful. So I decide to move on to the next town.
I now have two barbers to choose from: Balaji and Arvind. I decide to check them out. Arvind is a suave looking fellow with a neat cut. Balaji on the other hand looks shabby with improperly cut hair. I have no hesitation deciding who to get my hair cut from. Balaji does a great job as expected and that was the end of my hair problems.
So that is my beautiful hair story. The stories are based on 2 mathematical paradoxes, Carroll’s paradox and Russell’s paradox. But the beauty lies in the eye of the beholder. Those who do not love math may not have found the story so beautiful. Nevertheless there have been hair problems in every sphere of life from time immemorial and beautiful stories of how they were overcome through human will and enterprise.
Tamil mythology has the story of a scholar Nakkeeran who had to face the wrath of God in order to stand up for his belief that hair in itself cannot have any fragrance. Jewish mythology has the hero Samson with his own share of hair trouble when his loved one betrays him to his enemies. Australia as a country had hare trouble when the hares brought in by westerners multiplied in large number becoming a serious pest. Indian politics on the other hand is having heir trouble with dynasties emerging in almost every political party. Even our sporting icon Sachin Tendulkar had his own hair trouble – the umpire Darrell Hair. The list is endless. But the point is that there are so many different types of hair trouble possible, each with its own unique solution, each one a fascinating story in itself.
There are hair troubles and then there are hair troubles. For literal hair troubles of more mundane nature, there is a simple solution –this Dove Hair Aware App. Just use this application and find the solution and you are done. You will have beautiful hair. But not the beautiful stories of triumph of human spirit over insurmountable odds! As they say you cannot have the cake and eat it too.
Picture credit : Barber picture