x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Men shave heads to open eyes to cancer

Youth group does its part to raise awareness by going under the razor.

Hoping to raise awareness about cancer, a group of Dubai men shaved their heads yesterday. Aziz Mohammed Barbhaya joined the fun. His wife returns from India today and is in for a surprise.
Hoping to raise awareness about cancer, a group of Dubai men shaved their heads yesterday. Aziz Mohammed Barbhaya joined the fun. His wife returns from India today and is in for a surprise.

DUBAI // A group of young men have gone under the razor and shaved their heads for a women's cause.

Hassanain Anver, from Sri Lanka, yesterday joined seven others from across the Emirates to create awareness about breast cancer.

Mr Anver, 22, believes young people need more than talk to grab their attention.

"If someone came to me and told me to sit down and listen about breast cancer, I would tell him, 'I don't want to listen to you, man'," said Mr Anver, the founder of The Republic, an initiative that has supported youths and their projects since April last year.

"I want something interesting and live. So if I say I am going to shave my hair for breast cancer, people's reaction would be, 'What, really?' This generates interest by itself."

Mr Anver's uncle died of cancer. Many of The Republic's 80 members said they had also known someone with cancer.

Ahmad Hasan, an engineering student, said he had been growing his hair for a year so he could have it shoulder length and rocker-style.

But Mr Hasan, 19, had decided to show support for the cause instead.

"It may sound funny or ridiculous but a small sacrifice can make a whole lot of people feel better," he said.

"We want to show those who have cancer that hair is not a big deal and we want to give them more motivation to fight."

As Mr Hasan and others finished at the salon, they joked with each other and rubbed their bare heads. They sprayed each other's heads with water and mused about running faster and weighing less. One said his glasses felt loose.

Aziz Mohammed Barbhaya, 29, a businessman and sponsor of The Republic, decided to remove his religious cap and join the fun.

"Being a sponsor, let me support them in everything I do," Mr Barbhaya said as he prepared to sit in the barber's chair.

The only other time he had shaved his head was to go on Haj last November. "I'm ready to do it for a cause," he said.

As the barber's clippers began buzzing, he wavered on how his family and colleagues would react. "I'm a little scared my wife will be shocked," Mr Barbhaya said. "I think she's going to love me more."

His 4-year-old daughter, whom he last saw a month ago, might not recognise him, he joked.

After he finished, the barber brushed his head, rubbed it with lotion and gave him a head massage called a malish in Hindi.

Premi Mathew, who started a breast cancer awareness page on Facebook with her daughter, approached The Republic to support the cause.

Her page, which asks young people to "pester" their mothers to conduct breast self-examinations, has more than 1,600 fans.

"We just started as a mother and daughter team but there has been a lot of response and what the youth are doing is very unique," said Mrs Mathew.

"I am really happy to see students who are willing to go out of their way to support the campaign, and mainly their mothers."

The men who shaved their heads will update their profile pictures on Facebook and message their friends about their new look.

The sponsor of the event, Gulf Healthcare International, is offering free mammograms to the mother of each man who shaved his head.

Dr Roghy McCarthy, a clinical psychologist at the Counselling and Development Clinic in Dubai, said the event sent a positive message.

"Sometimes shocking is a good way of advertising, especially for a disease like this, as it will make people realise they need to take care of their health," Dr McCarthy said.