Sunday, December 20, 2009

Short or Medium??

Getting my hair cut, is usually a self decision. Although it starts off with Amma very subtly pointing out my not-so-subtle mane growth, it is a self decision.

Some days of resistance and convincing, of the need to be different, or the attempt at a new style, follow, but a look in the mirror convinces me that its time.

After the undertaking, comes the actual visit to the Salon. The Salon, mind you, not any other salon. The search for the Salon is a long, enduring and a challenging journey guaranteed to make you hair stand on end, with its endless traps and trickery. Loud mouthed barbers and unchanged blades are the prime villains among others. This is certainly not for the bald pated.

Now to those who naively question the search for the Salon, like" Pah what’s the big deal in choosing barber and all? It’s the same scissor and same half broken talcum powder box, no?” I curse them to visit Unisex salons and pay exorbitant prices for hair-styling+marriage-fairness-face-pack+ear-cleaning packages for the rest of their condemned lives.

"Kanna, My hair growth is self-regulated and changes with the different characters, i portray. Hope Balakrishnan doesn't mind..."

Its a different mane game altogether. Its needs patience, diligence and a keen eye. From my experience of having it done at 4 different places before settling down to the current one, the following factors should be looked out for:

1) Ambience: Plush interiors with Gillette shaving cream cans on the shelf, translates to one thing alone. The hair dresser is unskilled, so he is banking on the brands to lure you. Beware of such fellows, for you will be charged Rs.20 more than area average to refill the Gillette can, and end up with a bad hair style for your friends to laugh at. This doesn't mean that you visit shady ones with misspelt boards, but try to find a compromise. For example, the place which has a good balance of imitation and genuine products must seal the deal.

2) Magazines/ Newspapers: Although this might sound trivial, it really hits you when you have a dog eared copy of Star Dust of February 1993 with a Ravenous Raveena Tandon on the cover for company, while you wait your turn. A recent edition of the same or a respected newspaper at the very least, (if not The Hindu) should be present.

3) Television: Everybody wants to know how Claudia is faring in Bigg Boss or the formation of Telengana from the idiot box, barbers included. Even though you might enjoy the occasional Dr.Raj songs while getting your hair cut, the attention of the barber is not on you. With small cuts behind the ear and the nape, i stand as testimony against these fellows. Therefore radio is the only contraption of entertainment that he can possess. With Docomo ads being aired every other minute, he will be fully involved in giving you the best hair cut.

4)The after hair-cut "plz-sir-it-will-relax-you" head massage: The snip snap is done. You feel light in the head and the barber starts right away with the massage, without registering your protest. The karate chops land on your scalp with increasing rapidity and angle variation, leaving you to regret the oncoming headache. Its like paying to watch 2012. A sorry state of affairs.... So find the one, who understands your predicament or the one who massages in the true sense of the word.

After these important factors are taken care off and the list of potential hairstylists have come down to a handful, only then can you start insisting upon hygiene, voluntary change of blade for the straight razor etcetera.

 "No Hair Cut, No Cry..."

The salon that I visit, is one of those not-so-flashy ones and yet well-to-do. It’s minimal, with the right balance of products as mentioned before. The owner of the shop is unobtrusive and a gentleman. We exchange pleasantries and local gossip, while he tries hard to come up with a decent hairstyle that suits my odd shaped head. That I chose to go on Tuesday helps, because the superstitious types don't believe in letting their hair down on this inauspicious day. This saves the effort of having to read through his reasonable magazine collection, as I am served straightaway.
I mention "Medium", to the query, “Medium or Short?” and settle down, for him take over. The blade for the straight razor is voluntarily changed, which makes me feel content, on having made the right choice. The haircut is done, so is the customary massage, the sprinkling of powder (whose logo-design seems familiar but not the brand), the brushing of the residual hair and the admiration of the new style at different angles in front of the mirror.

The Salon is an important place in a man’s life. When the mundane things in life like shaving and dyeing one's hair, is being performed by an expert on you, who wouldn't feel pampered? And besides, which other place offers you the thrill of playing around with the elders back home, by threatening to touch something before the bath…??

Monday, November 23, 2009


This piece was written a few weeks ago, for the Transit 09 fest souvenir in college. The theme was change. And the above title did not go into the souvenir... So here it is:

The audience was ready. The audience being retired gentlemen, from the households of Vijayanagar. The meeting place was the lone tree shelter near Manuvana. Mr.Shetty had special rituals conducted at the nearby Maruthi mandir, for the safety of this shelter from the marauding Metro construction nearby. It seemed that his prayers hadn’t been in vain. Atleast for now…

Mr.Murlidhar sensed the discontentment in the gathering. He assumed that the recent political turmoil in the state was causing it. Clearing his throat, he said,"Fellow members, I feel that we should all be more proactive with the issues that concern the state. What do you all say?".

This was met with a round of guffaws from the members, with some of them incoherently mumbling, “What a joke!!” “Why do you say so Murli?” asked Mr.Shetty. “Well, its definitely better than grumbling about the situation and seeking a change…”

“But how does it matter? Does it stop governments from ending their power struggles? Does that alleviate the condition for the flood affected? Does that end the mindless destruction of greenery in the name Metro? We are helpless after the application of the indelible ink.” Thundered Muniyappa, fondly called Vajramuni.

“I agree with Vajru on this one, we should have a communist rule like China, what discipline… what progress…Otherwise it’s a hopeless situation” said Mr.Shyam, which was emphasized by a round of tapping the walking sticks.

“If that is how you all feel, let me give you a situation, Imagine your loved one who is suffering from a forbidden disease and the doctors at Hospital X, have given up hope. Would you give up hope? Wont you take a second opinion, perhaps rush him/her to another hospital? In other words, wouldn’t you do all that’s possible from your end, to see your loved one happy and healthy again? Then, why this apathy when it comes to the society?...” countered Murali.

“But Uncle, How do individuals, without the backing of powerful contacts and means to money, be able to make a significant contribution to the society?” asked Ravi the lone youngster in the group.

"This is where the misconception lies. It’s the intention the matters, not the quantum of money or the publicity it generates. Let me tackle Vajru’s points.

Why should the struggle of power affect you in helping the flood affected? Haven’t you heard of companies offering to build shelters for them? Haven’t you heard of noble individuals cooking rotis and making sure it supplied to the helpless? Assist these efforts to extend their reach. Otherwise cajole others to contribute to a fund started by you and make it your responsibility to visit the affected places and make sure that the money is well spent. This would surely enthuse many contributors to donate to your fund… How does red tape or bureaucracy stop you from doing this? "

“Interesting”, mumbled Mr.Shastry, while making a silent prayer, when the street lights came on.

“Coming to the Metro, appeal to the local authorities if you feel that nature is being irrevocably damaged. If that falls on deaf ears, start a peaceful protest to achieve you end. If no light is visible at the end of the tunnel, initiate efforts to recover the green cover lost in this mayhem. Start greenery drives, by encouraging the youngsters to plant trees. Wouldn’t that be helpful to the city and its people?”

“We can’t stop the preaching once it begins” whispered Mr.Ram to Vajru, much to his indignation.

“Alright uncle, you did mention some measures which can adopted by all of us. But how do we sensitize the citizens of Bangalore, to these issues and others? Hygiene and civic sense for example…”asked Ravi.

“Well Ravi, charity begins at home. First try to sensitize the ones whom you are close to. Adapt your methods based on how effective you are. If the speech, like the boring one that I am giving you now, doesn’t work, use innovations like a street play or media like theater or movies to put your point across.

Most importantly practice what you preach. People easily identify to the cause if they can identify it with a role model. That’s why we are social animals. Some of us are self willing, others need the catalyst.”

“Be the change you want to see in the world.” concluded Mr.Murli

“Wonder who said that? It’s at the tip of my tongue.” butted in Shastry. “It was bapuji himself. Shastry, you and your memory.” quipped Vajru, much to the amusement to everyone.

“Alright everyone, can the pleasantries be exchanged over a cup of coffee?” suggested Mr.Shyam. The very idea of coffee found a whole hearted agreement amongst them. The collective sound of the jostling walking sticks, faded amidst the evening noises.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

The curious case of my teeth

"Now Shivu, you need to hold the tissue carefully, else you will end up giving post-procedure pain to the dear boy..." says Dr.SS who drives the cutting tool farther down the 3rd molar.

"ah?!", laments I...

what is it about CCD?
that's makes me so uneasy...
is it the others around me?
Or the prices which make me say, "Wowee"...

So went my lame attempt at poetry, whilst waiting for Anna and M at the nearby CCD. As always, the cafe maintained its reputation of playing totally inane music. That combined with the incessant tittering of a couple sitting beside my table, made me to work more on my quartet...

The arrival of M and Anna, saved me the label of acquiring the poetic abilities of Vogons (as fans of H2G2 might recall with pleasure). The observer that M is, she asked me about the puffed right cheek. "Didn’t get into any trouble, i suppose...” she adds naively... Knowing fully well, that if i did, the damages wouldn’t have stopped with a puffed right cheek.

So to end all the mystery, i begin the narrative of the Curious case of My teeth. A case, whose 'what-the-what?' quotient is so high that, it will make the identity of the final Suitor of Rakhi Sawant and twitter updates of Ashton Kutcher, seem passe.

The narrative had many timelines to it, so i tried to pull of a Memento trick on the duo, but on her insistence i was forced to take up the linear technique.

After adjusting my position to that of a dental veteran...

{which involves stretching the legs, leaning on one of the arm rests and a mock adjustment of eye glasses with a distant look and masterly ordering hot choco latte for everyone, taking a gentle sip and...}

"So it all began, in the middle of a fine dinner circa 199x (x=6,7) when i complained of a Mamatha Banerjeesque tooth which refused to fall and was promptly seated on a dentist's chair, in the neighbourhood. The Dentist frowned at the condition of the tooth, the jaw and mumbled about the complexity of the case, before he loudly announced, “the tooth must be extracted and everything will be fine".

(" 'Everything will be fine', was always the phrase, which would be followed with no-holds-barred pain and horrors in my dental history...)

Cheap numbing spray and a few yankings later, I got to say goodbye to my first tooth. And thus began the journey of extractions, a journey which took not the beaten path of losing teeth by natural means, for ex. falling from bicycle, swallowing the about-to-go tooth, fighting etc. But the glorious path of artificial means which involved machinery and procedures of such beauty and complexity, it would have made any engineer's eyes moist with wonder."

"Even i have had extractions: P" interjected M. But to the reply, "Have you had 16 of them?" made her decide not to interject any more.

"16 extractions I have had dear and i don’t lie. 8 of them milk and 8 of them permanent. To the effect that, I am making do with just 24 out the 32 god gifted tools with which man has achieved so much." At this point she :O ed and took some time to regain her composure and i ordered another latte in good measure. Anna says, " But you don’t look like someone having 75% of human teeth.." (Probably expecting 8 empty slots neatly lined up..)

"That’s the X factor. The shape of the jaw and teeth and their sizes make up for the loss such that you wouldn’t notice. (I wink for the final touch).

"After the first extraction, my dad suggested that I consult a dentist capable of handling my case. And the visits to the White House clinic on St.Marks road began from thereon, a frequent haunt for 7 years nearly."

"Some from extractions followed and the foundation for Orthodontic treatment or teeth correction was laid during the middle school years. Braces firmly fixed upon admission to high school. But the extractions continued unabated. The only cheerful aspect of this episode was the brief mention that someday my case might make into the Journals of Dentistry. International recognition for my teeth was indeed heartening."

"People inculcate the virtue of Patience from dealing with warnings in Vista or Dial up internet connections, but I inculcated that from my visits to the clinic. The agonizing wait for the dentist, then the wait for the anesthetic to act (during extractions), the wait for the visit in itself to get over with; were tests of patience far greater than the pre 1991 telephone/cooking gas/car procurements..."

"There was a brief lull (with the completion of correction treatment), during the PU years and the 2 years of engineering, which gave me a false sense of contentment that the epic was drawing to a close. But a week ago, during a routine checkup, Dr.SS announced, “4 wisdom teeth have to be removed immediately." Abhi kahani bakhi hain mere dost, slurred SRK in the Reception room TV."

“After a while, I experienced a return to familiar territory. Having personally witnessed the evolution of Dentist chairs, equipments and procedures over the period of my treatment, I felt, there’s nothing more that ain’t prepared for. Horror stories of others’ wisdom extractions failed to unsettle me. ‘Bring it on’, I said to myself.

Although the extraction was complex enough to involve Maxillo-facial surgeons and innovative methods like breaking the tooth to 3 pieces before removal, I took it in… During the entire period of extraction, the final ten minutes of Requiem for a Dream played over and over again in my head. (The only movie segment, which unsettles me and gives me goose bumps, even when viewed in broad daylight… the music, the sequence of images brrrrrr….).

And thus the right cheek got puffed up…” said I ending the narration, much to the relief of my audience, who were bored enough to count the number of times the adverts had repeated, on the OOH TV plastered to the wall.

“So now I get that fixation of yours in expecting well maintained teeth from others,” says M. I sheepishly agree, much to the amusement of the duo.

As we leave CCD, with droplets of rain coming down ever so gently upon us, I realize that although I go through those moments of “why me? Why do I, of all the people, had to go through such agony and pain?”, I must count my blessings. Unwavering support and insistence from parents (Amma especially) on getting the treatment done, Brilliant dentists on whose wisdom I trusted, and permitted to operate upon on my teeth, the opportunity of getting my leg pulled among friends about my fixation and offering them a few laughs…

Its worth it all… :)