Hair for care: Indians raise funds to fight cancer

Parul and Varun Batra of Sydney do their bit for cancer research. NEHA MALUDE reports

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There are numerous reasons why people shave their heads – some do it for an edgy makeover, some do it to escape the daily humdrum of maintaining their hair, some for religious reasons and there are those unfortunate beings who do it simply because their hairlines are already receding and they may as well go all the way.

Parul and Varun Batra.Indian Link
Parul and Varun Batra

There is, however, a wonderful group of people who shave their heads for a noble cause: Fighting leukaemia. Parul and Varun Batra, a Sydney couple, are a part of this group. Parul, an HR professional, and Varun, an IT consultant, decided to take part in Australia’s most iconic fundraising event, World’s Greatest Shave.

The concept is simple: Volunteers get sponsored to be brave and shave their head, and the money they collect goes towards research for finding better treatments for leukaemias, lymphomas, myeloma and other related blood disorders. In Australia, a staggering 60,000 people are diagnosed with blood cancer and related disorders, the third most common cause of cancer death.

Varun tells us that his wife is the reason they finally took the plunge this year. “Parul has wanted to do this for sometime now, so this year we decided to go for it together. We thought the collective focus would increase support for the cause,” he says.

World's Greatest Shave.Indian Link
Parul Batra before she shaved her head

Going bald, especially for an Indian woman, is a big step. For most women, hair is more than just a part of their looks, it’s a part of their identity. Did Parul feel that she would lose a part of her identity or change her persona in a significant way? “The only change,” Parul replied, “is that we feel a lot colder.” She added, “Did it feel strange? Of course. But to be honest, excitement was the over-riding sensation!”

The duo has raised just over a whopping $4,000, but is keen on raising at least $6,000 for the cause. “This has definitely motivated us to do more to make a difference. But the movement needs far more support. Parul and I are certainly going to try and find more ways to contribute to this event, not just in cash but in kind too.”

World's Greatest Shave.Indian Link
Smit Shah

Did they face any resistance or backlash from family? “Our families were a bit stunned at first, sure. But they came around, and when we told them why Parul and I were participating in this event, they were immensely proud of us,” Varun said. “Of course, Parul and I supported each other right from the beginning.”

In the past we’ve reported on how two Sydney-based women, Deepa Hariharan and Vani Chandra, stepped up to the challenge and shaved their heads to support the event. While Deepa decided support the cause by raising $3,000 after a dear friend lost her life to brain cancer, Vani raised more than $5,000 for the Leukaemia Foundation by shaving her locks on her birthday.

This year will mark 20 years since World’s Greatest Shave was started by the foundation in 1998. The event started on March 14 and goes on till March 18 this year. And guess what? If you’re interested in supporting this cause, you don’t have to necessarily say goodbye to your lovely mane; you can colour your hair (using a temporary colour spray or hair chalk), wax your hands or legs or even just wear a wig – it’s that simple.

What’s more, the foundation recycles ponytails into wigs and turns hair clippings into compost or floating booms to absorb oil spills at sea. Not only do you end up helping improve the life of a cancer patient, but also the environment. It’s a win-win all the way.

So, are you ready to make the cut?

Check out https://worldsgreatestshave.com/ to know more.

Do it anytime

If you want to volunteer by shaving your head for the World’s Greatest Shave, but can’t between March 14-18, don’t sweat it. You can do it any other time of the year, just like 27-year-old Smit Shah, who plans to sit in the hairdresser’s chair in May this year. Smit, a Senior Analyst at Deloitte in Perth, says the event seemed like a really fun way to do more charity work. If you’d like to donate to Smit’s cause, click http://my.leukaemiafoundation.org.au/smitshah

If you too want to donate on another date, all you have to do is call the Leukaemia Foundation on 1800 500 088 to discuss a time that suits you.

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