Obviously there might have been some reason why head scarves were incorporated for women. Just like the Abaya (long loose gown worn by Muslim women) or the Niqab (which covers the face fully with or without exception of eyes), which were meant to keep men's gaze away! Else women would just be wearing only a gown and Niqab, with flowing hair over their heads.
My purpose of writing this article is not urging people to wear the Hijaab. But of late I've discovered the benefits of sporting a head gear while travelling. Earlier, like others, I too thought that this was just a traditional Muslim dressing. But now, not so!
In olden Europe, women wore scarves over their head. I've grown up seeing old delicate Parsi ladies wearing silk scarves over their head. But slowing the custom started to fade away because sporting a head scarf became more associated with Muslim women and others started to avoid it.
The place where I work (Andheri East) is highly polluted place in Mumbai. Pollution levels are high there with high concentration of traffic emitting smoke. And of late (since more than one year), there's road development work going on adding to dust also. Travelling through all this pollution (there's literally a smog during rush hours!!!), starting spoiling my hair and skin. No matter, how often you wash your hair, dust and smoke in the area made it rough and harsh. And I noticed that on holidays and Sundays, my hair glowed with health.
I had been to Pune once to meet my youngest brother, Mohammed Azeem, who's studying and working there and discovered that there were many students staying alone there for education and work (Pune, being a centre of IT industries in Maharashtra). And these student girls were very happily sporting the head scarves, away from their family's silly ideas of scarves being Muslim clothing only. They wore it to protect themselves from dirt, dust and smoke. On bikes, while walking. It gave them a sense of protection too. Because they mostly wrapped it around their faces also. And wore it even when they were not on their scooters, bikes, bicycles!!! It gave them protection in four ways :
1) Hair protection from dust and smoke and sun.
2) Skin protection as the same was wrapped around their faces too
3) Keeping away air from blowing into their ears while travelling on scooties or bikes!
4) Unique sense of identity and anonymity and protection in an alien land.
I also noticed scarves were a craze in Pune and were sold really cheap. Cotton scarves are available for as less as Rs 30 to Rs 40 !!! I realised that if these girls can wear it, then why am I feeling shy. My road travel from Andheri station to Chandivli (my office) is filled with so much dust and smoke! I picked up one and made a beginning.
And it was not only me. Many people are rediscovering the advantages of wearing a head scarf while travelling. The olden grandma days are back and the scarf is not only viewed as a Muslim thing! I've seen a female who regularly sports a silk scarf while travelling, telling her friend- "I wear this to protect my hair. Just-washed wet hair attracts a lot of impurities while travelling. And the sun also harms the hair!"
Yes, we hear of people often saying - 'I haven’t greyed by hair in the Sun'! This itself speaks of the harmful effects the sun can have on your hair!
I wear my scarf only when I get into the auto-rickshaw from Andheri station till I reach my office. It's a 30-40 mins journey through polluted air! I wear it with a knot in the front at my neck. Its most important to ensure that the tapering end of the scarf (you have to fold it diagonally to get a triangular shape) covers your hair fully from behind! The part hanging from the knot can be held over your nose and mouth to protect yourself from inhaling polluted air!
While travelling through crowded Virar trains, I've noticed that we stand in close proximity to the extent of suffocating ourselves ! And in the Ladies compartment, the common problem is - women's hair!!! The hair of the woman standing in front of you is always a problem. If it's left open, your face is rubbing into it. If it's short and in pony tail, it will poke and tickle your face. If its oiled, then God bless you ! You will hear women cribbing -'Take your hair in the front'! Some will be considerate. Others will not budge! And yet others, put their dupattas on their head! And at these times, women in Hijab are a blessing!
And why only women, in Arab countries, the men also wear a headgear to protect themselves from the sandstorms! In recent times, scarves are worn by men in the form of bandannas!
Whether you call them scarves or bandannas or the Hijab, they protect you from the sun, pollution, smoke and wind !