Chestnut brown, dark auburn and bleach blonde. The three colours had dominated wig maker Jahangir Hussain’s factory in outer Delhi’s Nangloi. But after a group of seven armed men robbed him at gunpoint, fleeing with 230 kg of wigs, all that is left are dark black wigs stacked in a carton.
It took seven armed men 25 minutes to stage the robbery, after they bound Hussain and his younger brother Tajuddin. But it had taken months of painstaking work — with multiple trips to Tirupati temple to buy donated hair from their local supplier — to procure enough raw hair to stitch the wigs.
The wigs, Hussain said, are worth more than Rs 60 lakh. “People think wigs are cheap but they cost a fortune to make. I bought around 120 kg of donated hair from Tirupati last month and spent Rs 25,000 for a single kg of raw hair. I had to borrow Rs 12 lakh to cover the purchase cost,” he said.
The brothers, who hail from Assam’s Hojai district, worked at a wig making company in Andhra Pradesh from 1997-98 before setting up their own venture in Delhi. Hussain started with a small consignment of bulk hair and eventually made enough money to buy a house in Nangloi, where he also set up a wig-making factory in 450 square metres.
The brothers produce both remy bulk hair (wigs made using donated hair from Tirupati) and machine weft hair wigs, a superior quality product that undergoes several stages of washing and stitching to match the skin tone and hairline.
Every month, the brothers take two trips to Tirupati temple to source the hair. They employ four workers to sort through the hair, taking out the gray and damaged hair and leveling up the strands before brushing them with a wide comb, which has iron nails instead of bristles.
After every combing session, the brothers would use shampoo and other chemicals to blend the hair into natural colours of their choice, before stitching it into a wig. More than 230 shampoo bottles would be used to wash 100 kg hair.
“We breathe life into dead hair and one can use this for more than 10 years with good upkeep,” Hussain said, adding that it takes two-three days to prepare 1 kg of wigs. After taking a loan of Rs 12 lakh, the brothers were somewhat desperate for customers. That’s when the robbers posed as decoy customers and made an order for remy bulk hair worth over Rs 6 lakh. “They left with not just remy bulk hair but even our prized machine weft hair, kept inside a locker,” Hussain said. With police unable to make headway in the case so far, the wig makers say there’s another pressing concern in their life. “My daughter’s name has not figured in the NRC list. Several of our relatives’ names are not on it either. We don’t know what to do now,” Tajuddin said.