The Dying Art

Ashok Sharma
To look beautiful and handsome is the desire of every person and since times immemorial, both men and women have always loved to embellish themselves by using various beauty techniques and materials.
They have used herbs,multani mitti, haldi, aloe vera,etc for various parts of their body to look beautiful and graceful.Among the various parts,the hair on the head has always been an innate asset for human kind through ages and one of the most cherished desires of women, especially in India is to have long ,thick and black flowing hair on their head,which are tied into beautiful buns, plaits,pony tails, braids etc.No wonder, the business of hairdressing in India is gaining momentum with each passing day. The combed hair is, then bedecked with flowers, pearls and gems.In literature, there have been poems on the beauty of hair and even those where fights have taken place over the cutting of hair.To comb the hair into various ways and patterns,a comb or brush is required.
The comb, especially of wood,has been in use in India for thousands of years.It is made from the wood of trees like sheesham, sandalwood etc which are known for their medicinal properties.It is made in intricate ways with precision and crafted into various designs and shapes such as duck, peacock etc.In some cases, the comb has teeth and bristles on either side of the stem .The thick bristles are meant to loosen and comb dishevelled,unkempt and matted hair of the head and thin bristles are meant for combing beards, short and loose hair.
The wooden comb , besides combing the hair, massages the head and is also believed to prevent hairfall. Grooming with the wooden comb is also believed to check breakage of hair and its fine bristles also help in driving  away the licks and lice from the head. The wide toothed wooden combs are softer and gentler on the head and detangle the knots of the hair in a smooth manner. It is also believed that this comb causes less allergies to the scalp and checks dandruff.It increases the flow of blood on the scalp and has a gentle effect on it. The alctivation of blood vessels under the scalp also helps in reducing hair breakage. Moreover, wooden combs are said to be durable and easy to clean.Thus wooden combs help to comb and condition the hair with finesse.
All this makes the wooden comb an indispensable accessory for the men and the women alike.Though plastic combs have replaced the wooden combs in the markets these days for the former are lighter and cheaper than the latter, the wooden combs are durable and more beneficial. Moreover, the devout Sikhs also prefer to use the wooden comb to the plastic ones.
So the wooden combs of various sizes are easily avaiable at the gurudwaras but they are a rarely seen in the market due to lack of their demand.There is one more advantage of wooden combs.These combs can also be used as decorative pieces in the living and dining rooms.But this beautiful art of making wooden combs practised in India for hundreds of years is dying a slow death in the wake of modernity.
As this comb is losing its customers day by day,this art, practised by only a few people in our country these days and is facing new question of survival in the changing contexts of making plastic lookalikes.But it must be remembered that wood is more durable than and superior to plastic. It is not only an indispensable accessory, but also a part of our heritage. So efforts must be made to preserve this century-old art otherwise this art will vanish into oblivion in the mad race for modernity and our posterity will not be so lucky to have a glimpse of this valuable piece of art.So do buy a wooden comb as buying  it is  not just buying a piece of art.It is, in fact, a piece of soul…a small piece of the life of the  artist.