Aparna Lavakumar lets out a hearty chuckle when she is asked how she felt after shaving off her long tresses. “I felt happy,” replies the Kerala policewoman and mother of two who just donated her hair for young cancer patients.
As a senior civil police officer (SCPO) in Irinjalakuda, Thrissur, Aparna conducts regular awareness drives among school students. It was during one such awareness camp at a local school that she interacted with a student in Class 5, who was battling cancer.
The boy met with her after her session and expressed his dream to become a police officer someday. His bald head did not raise Aparna’s curiosity at first, but she could sense that the child was struggling to come to terms with his bald appearance.
It was then a teacher revealed that the boy was a cancer survivor, and was often mocked by his classmates for losing his hair to chemotherapy.
The young boy’s plight deeply moved Aparna. “It is hard for these children. They often face a lot of bullying at school for their bald heads. For younger cancer patients, the psychological distress of losing hair is extremely painful,” she shares.
A few days after interacting with the boy, Aparna headed to a beauty salon near her home and decided to let go of her hair entirely. She donated her hair to a non-profit foundation which prepares wigs for cancer survivors. It was as simple as that.
She knew her thick hair can be used for making wigs for cancer patients. But her main aim was to normalise the baldness which is often perceived by society with mockery.
“Going bald can be severely traumatic for children with cancer, who are already battling for life at such a nascent age. I wanted to support them by proving that baldness is not a matter of shame,” she asserts.
This is not the first time that Aparna has donated her hair to cancer patients.
“Earlier, I had cut off my hair partially to donate for the cause. This time I felt like having a full-fledged tonsure to stand in solidarity with the patients,” she says.
Incidentally, according to the uniform regulations, Kerala police officers are forbidden from shaving their head, regardless of gender. However, in Aparna’s case, N Vijayakumar, the Thrissur police chief, decided to make an exception as he was moved by her laudable gesture.
Although Aparna wanted to keep everything under wraps, the salon where she shaved her hair chose to hail her noble act by posting her photo on social media, which immediately went viral, earning accolades from all over the country.
However, the soft-spoken SCPO is no stranger to the limelight. Eleven years ago, she made headlines for spontaneously donating her three gold bangles to a distressed family who lost their relative.
The family had failed to pay the hospital bill because of which the hospital refused to release the body. Aparna, who was at the hospital at that time to investigate a case, did not think twice before donating her gold bangles to the struggling family.
Aparna wishes to bridge the gap between the police and the public through her kindness and empathy, and sincerely hopes that her generous endeavour will help put smiles on the faces of many young children.
(Edited by Gayatri Mishra)