Tamil Nadu

Tangled for a cause

Print edition : March 07, 2014

Rennee Saradha donating her hair on World Cancer Day, February 4. Photo: by special arrangement

IT was around midday on February 4, World Cancer Day. A score of students and some faculty members had gathered under the shade of trees on the premises of Women’s Christian College (WCC) in Chennai.

Suddenly, there were shouts of elation and admiration from the gathering. Rennee Saradha (20) emerged grinning from a room bereft of her 12-inch-long black hair—she had got her head tonsured for a cause. Her hair will be used to make wigs for cancer patients, mainly children and adolescent girls, who experienced “hair fall” after chemotherapy.

Rennee was the first of the 150 students and 10 faculty members who donated their tresses for the noble cause. While Rennee and two others had a tonsure, the others got their hair clipped. “I am looking boyish and smarter,” said a girl who got her hair clipped to a crew cut. Another 200 have registered their names for the donation.

This daring act, shedding cultural inhibitions in a conservative city like Chennai, made Rennee and the WCC Rotaract Club, of which she is the president, instant celebrities.

This unique gesture was one of the service activities initiated by her in the club. Her peers and the faculty were full of encouragement and support for the project.

Rennee, a final-year student of English Literature, said: “I want to be as innovative and substantive as possible during my one-year term as president. We in the Rotaract team did a lot of study on the subject before and after meeting doctors and patients of the Adyar Cancer Institute.” A salon in the city lent its services to the club’s mission.

The initiative has been named “Tangled” after Walt Disney’s musical fantasy about a beautiful princess with long magical hair. Margaret Marie, Faculty Adviser, Rotaract Club, WCC, said the project was conceived and executed by Rennee and well-supported by project chairperson Sumaiya Fatima and secretary Ramya Ramachandran, both students of psychology.

The young women, upon their visit to the Adyar Cancer Institute, which needs a minimum of 100 wigs a month, understood the trauma of young cancer patients undergoing radium and chemotherapy treatment.

“Many of the patients are poor and cannot afford to buy natural hair wigs (which are more expensive yet more real than synthetic wigs). They cost around Rs.20,000 a wig, hence the girls decided to launch a campaign for hair donation for wig-making,” Margaret Marie said. The team carried its campaign to many colleges, schools and corporate houses in the city.

The team has shortlisted a few wig makers in the city. “A single wig takes 30 days to make. We are confident that we will be able to donate the first batch of 100 wigs to the Adyar Institute in April, prior to the semester examinations,” said Margaret Marie.

Rennee has the full support of her mother Saradha. She simply adores her mother.

“She is broad-minded and humane and allowed us, me and my younger sister, to grow up as independent kids with confidence,” said Rennee.

R. Ilangovan

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