Category Archives: Friendship

Short Story: Through Thick and Thin


Babies haven’t any hair:
Old men’s heads are just as bare;
From the cradle to the grave
Lies a haircut and a shave.
 – Samuel Goodman Hoffenstein

 Stages of Hair

Nakul and I are not too different.

We have been friends forever. And we’ve been forever obsessed with our hair.

It all started in Primary school, when the blue eyed Aarthi told both of us how much she liked our hair and how nice it smelled. Our families did not realize that there was something wrong, until Dad’s aftershave, Mom’s skin lotion, the expensive perfume that was gifted for their wedding, started disappearing mysteriously. Nakul’s mom once even complained of losing the Phenol bottle from their bathroom. It was only when my mother broke 3 combs while combing my hair, and Nakul’s mother found his head smelling like the toilet, that they realized that something was wrong. Of course some violence at home ensured that we were back to our normal self, and Aarthi went on to like the tonsured Prabhu. But then, that was the start of a lifelong obsession.

I hated taking a shower as I was scared, I would wash off my hair. My mother, a very qualified 5th Grade Science teacher, educated me that it was common for us to lose hair every day. I knew how dumb the Class 5 guys of my school were and hence did not trust her at all. Nakul told me that he would collect all the hair he lost and then ‘re-insert’ them back. I tried it too, but it was too difficult to keep the head still or risk the inserted hair falling off. I ditched the idea and decided to stop combing my hair completely.

There were two things that I absolutely hated as a kid. One was the vacation trips to Tirupathi, and monthly haircuts. I had nothing against God, trust me. Considering the daily prayers I chanted to keep my mane strong, dense and healthy, I had the utmost respect for the almighty. But I cringed at the thought of offering hair to God. I considered it as evil as sacrificing animals in the name of God. I tried fighting off the trip, but then parents are parents. Every year, for 2 months after the vacation, I would wear a new, super cool cap that an Uncle had bought me from ‘Foreign’. Nakul would vouch for me every time and make the kids feel as if I was cool, even though he knew that the most distant relative I ever had was working in a bank in Bangalore. But then, what are friends for? As if this wasn’t enough punishment once a year, every month I was duly forced into the Barber shop down the street. Sasi Anna was only just learning the ropes from his father there, and Nakul and I were his favorite ‘lab rats’. But then with the years, the three of us grew very close to each other, and in our early teens, we became very very choosy with the way we wanted our hair cut. In fact, we became sort of the in house experts as far as hair style was concerned, and Sasi Anna’s customers began seeking our suggestions. We learnt a bit of the trade too, and once, I even tried cutting my Dad’s hair. That it had serious repercussions, is another story altogether.

Also, I hated my Dad… Seriously. He was definitely the most greatest father any boy could have growing up and my most trusted friend after Nakul. But then his receding hairline kept rubbing it in, that hair loss was hereditary in my family. Every time, he would comb over those few strands of mane to cover the barren patch over his forehead, tears would roll down my eyes watching my future laugh at me. The Autumn of my crown, wasn’t exactly something I was looking forward to. I also realized later that Appa was as angry with his Dad because of the very same thing. The bald portraits of grand old men hanging in the hall was a testament that the men in my family were blessed with hair loss. And that’s when I decided to become a genetic scientist and find a permanent cure for hair loss, and save the men of this world from insanity.

Sadly the world then taught me, that having an ambition alone doesn’t really help unless you have the brains for it. Nakul was no Einstein either. Thus sitting in the last bench of our class in the Computer Science building, we pursued the 3 year Bachelor of Science course for 5 years. We were the cool dudes of our college. Our silky black, shoulder length flowing mane was the talk of the campus. Our HOD loved our hair so much that he would run his fingers through them, grab them and drag us out of the class, every day, for no reason at all. We hated him for it, but then that’s what a college kid is supposed to do. We wore tight, black t-shirts, cool shades, and were practically Rockstars.

Everything was cool until that day in the theater when, a friendly neighborhood Romeo, sitting behind Nakul tried to run his fingers through his hair, mistaking ‘him’ to be a ‘her’, only for Nakul to turn back and give him a heart attack. Not just the Romeo, the girls in the college loved us too. It kind of got a little strange, when we realized that we were beginning to be surrounded by them much more than we really liked. It reached a new low when this first year girl walked up to me and asked in full public view of the entire male population of the college for any tips to keep hair strong and shiny. As flattering as that short conversation was, it also bordered on ‘total damage’ to our Guy ego. Nakul who stood a few steps away from this incident, apparently, bunked the next 2 hours to run off to the Barber Shop. Sasi Anna told me later, that he cried as much as I did when I went there in the evening for the same reason.

After college, I began to work in a small company that didn’t pay too handsomely as some of the other ones did. The work was equally less too, so I didn’t really mind. “Less tension, less hairloss” was what I cited as a reason when somebody questioned my choice of job. That I couldn’t clear any of the interviews in the other big companies was strictly between Nakul, Dad, the old bald interviewers and Me. 🙂 Nakul fared well in this aspect though and landed a job in an MNC with a handsome pay. I was happy for him. Happy that there was someone now who could sponsor those costly hair lotions for me. Working around serious 30 somethings at work, who were just getting started with the fall season of their heads, can be a terrifying experience, you see.

And then slowly, what we had dreaded began happening. It was in no way instant, but hit us slowly like age. In fact it was exactly that – age.

Don’t get me wrong, but both of us were not exactly, what you’d call old. Creeping up on the wrong side of 20’s this was when our families tossed the dreaded ‘M’-word around. Photos were requested, and I went deep into research to find out the angle of the photo that showed the most amount of hair on my head. I honestly felt it odd that my parents screamed, when I gave them a photo of me in a helmet on my bike.

Ah Helmet… Us and that wretched thing go back a long way too. As with any normal guys, we also had the best bikes that we could emotionally blackmail our parents into buying for us, as soon as we entered college. Little did we realize, that with great power, came a stupid responsibility. Helmets… My parents wouldn’t let me touch the bike without a helmet. But there was this sinister, urban legend about the helmets that scared us out of our skins. Apparently there was this powerful curse that anyone wearing a helmet would lose hair faster than you could say ‘aiyayoo’. Just to please Mom and Dad, I would wear one till I left the gates of the apartment, after which it would proudly sit on the fuel tank. I knew it wasn’t safe to drive without a helmet, but I never crossed 45kmph in the city traffic. I was scared, the wind and pollution would blow off my hair. 🙂

But then, one fine day, it became a law to wear a helmet. Nakul and I had this thing for challenging the rules, and we were promptly stopped by this ‘abdominally unchallenged’ traffic cop near the Mount Road signal. It would have been easy if we had just nodded to the sermon administered on road safety and importance of helmets, and paid the 500 Rupees fees for it, but no… As soon as the cop took off his cap and advised us that life was more important than hair, Nakul winced his eyes, put on his shades, looked at the shining second Sun before us and said as sarcastically as humanly possible – “Oh yeah, you would know, won’t you…”. 2 hours and 2000 Rupees later, we were still not convinced that we were wrong. At least we did not land in the jail. 🙂

And as time passed, life moved on, barren patches of experience began dotting the lush thicket of youth, and we began to accept the changes. I married Lakshmi and settled down in Chennai. Nakul on the other hand moved to London with Suja. We kept in touch with each other on Facebook, and rejoiced in watching photos of each other seeing who had more hair. Gradually, a good ‘hair day’ became as simple as having enough strands on the head that day.

And after a good three years he landed in Chennai. We decided we will meet at the beach, our regular hang out. I drove in to the parking lot, helmet and all, checked the hair and marched to meet someone who had seen through the thick and thin with me. Nakul stepped out of the car looking dapper and with much more hair than I expected. We shook hands, grabbed a coffee from the nearby stall and walked towards the beach. 3 years was a long time, and there was way too much to talk. It was a delight to again be hanging out like a bunch of teenagers. Friendship was in the air.

And then, without warning, a strong gust of ‘unfriendly’ wind blew.

Few minutes later, after we fetched our ‘stuff’ from the sand that the cruel wind had knocked down, we looked sheepishly at each other. We were silent for a while and then laughed our hearts out. No, Nakul and I weren’t too different at all.

I don’t consider myself bald, I’m just taller than my hair.
 – Lucius Annaeus Seneca

-x-

Fly Away Hair

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Filed under Friendship, Humor, Stories, Uncategorized

Never Too Far – Friendship Short Story


Sourced from my post at the Tiger Trails Team-blog.

Never Too Far


Come on… Another interview? And my story? For a Short Story Contest? The friendship saga of Ajay and me? Yeah right… I get that all the time… Ha ha ha.

Gosh Aarthi… you are serious aren’t you? Well, you know what, I don’t do this a lot. I’ve had quite a few people trying to interview me and all that, but I’ve never spoken much to any of them. Especially these London ‘goras’ here. 😉 But since you told me you are from Chennai as well, from Anna Nagar and a cute looking ‘Tamil’ girl, 🙂 I think I’ll make an exception. 🙂 Go on shoot. But let me warn you, there is nothing interesting about our story, and I’m a bad story teller, and you will get bored. Ajay is better at this stuff. You should wait for him.

You are quite an adamant soul, aren’t you? Ok cool. Dinesh… Dinesh Rajendran is my name. I was born, brought up and spoilt in Chennai. 🙂 I grew up in Anna Nagar in an upper middle class locality with a huge bunch of friends. Ajay, my best buddy, is also from the same area and pretty much identical to me in most respects, if not all. And together, we were the worst nightmare. Of our family’s, school’s, and the neighbourhood’s worst nightmare. 🙂 Gosh, I sound like a history book, don’t I?

Hmmm… How long have we been friends? Oh only since the kindergarten days. From the time Ajay wet his shorts and made the whole class smell like the school toilet. Yeah yeah… if you ask him, he’ll say it was me. Trust me, it was him. They did not call him ‘number one’ Ajay for nothing you see. 😉 In the midst of all kids teasing him, and the teacher shouting at him, I was the only one who sympathised with him. I remember I told him, “Its OK, I’ve done this earlier too.” And that was the start of a beautiful friendship, under the most smelliest of circumstances. We were quite something during school too. Ever heard of school kids bunking school to watch a movie. Oh you have? In class 5? Ha ha… Well we did. To watch Rangeela. And boy, what a movie. We were A.R.Rahman fanatics, Aamir Khan fans and with Urmila dancing like that, which self respecting young man wouldn’t wanna see all that on big screen? Too bad Ajay’s mama had similar plans. He caught us in the front row salivating at Urmila’s jhatkas and matkas. Boy did we get beaten up or whatand how. To this day whenever I see Urmila dancing to ‘Tanha Tanha’ on TV, my ears start twitching with pain. I guess even my ears remember the pinching they got from Mommy dearest for bunking school. Well, Ajay tells me that his behinds exhibit the same reaction too. 😀

We were big movie buffs, and thanks to a heavy dose of Tamil movies we were nothing short of the Kollywood heroes during school days. In school, Ajay was really really fond of this sweet Keralite girl in our class called Divya. He was so in ‘loove’ with her that at times, Divya and Ajay would walk back to the bus stop from school, Ajay holding her bag in one hand and her hand in another, and talking as if nothing else mattered in the world for a teen. As for me, I promptly walked ten paces behind them, holding Ajay’s bag as well as mine, watching for other ‘friends’, who might see this, spread the word and end up embarassing Yours Truly. Now, since Divya was ‘way-out-of-our-league-really-cute’, she had quite a fan following in school. A particular class 9th boy had apparently watched a few Tamil movies himself as well, and confronted us with a few of his rowdy friends one day after school, in a scene straight out of a movie. Ajay was ready to forget the spelling of Divya when he saw these overgrown guys. But then Dinesh Rajendran knows no fear, you see. I fearlessly stood before them, unbuttoning the top 2 buttons of my shirt, dropped the bags, brought out that intimidating expression on my face, and asked them to mind their own business, punctuating it with a modest swear vocabulary that Kabilan from the ‘C’ section had taught me. Wow, you should have seen me then. Certified hero material.

And then what happened? Obviously, we were beaten black and blue, me in more darker shades than Mr. Romeo; and Ajay has not even looked at anything that rhymed with Divya after that day.

We were together from Kindergarten until our 12th, after which we headed off to different places for our Engineering. I went to Coimbatore for my Mechanical Engg course, while he zipped off to Pondichery to do his EEE. You know, I was completely jealous of this guy that he was staying at Pondichery. Twice a month, I would head off to Pondichery and get completely sloshed and mess up Ajay’s room. What’s the matter? Tell me one self respecting guy, who’s not gotten high and thrown up. And that too in a place where booze is this cheap? But trust me, Ajay wasn’t too much of a drinker. While I did most of the drinking, he did more of the ‘side-dish eating’. He knew all the brands of spirit by heart and could easily budget how much of the stuff we would need to buy and how much it would cost us. But inspite of all that, he would be the guy who’ll walk me home no matter how drunk I was, and make sure that I was safe and sound. 😀 And that was one of the reason we gelled so well.

After college, as luck may have it, both of us landed in the same IT Company on OMR in Chennai. Well, actually, I had given up on a few better paying, better positioned companies, to be with Ajay. We weren’t in the same project, and thank goodness for that. At least that way, each of us wasn’t aware of the ‘praises’ we got from our Leads and Managers. We met for tea everyday, sharp at 11 and 4, sipping on to the countless cups of the hot beverage, cursing our respective projects and everyone associated with them, and more importantly, seriously debating, if that coy, beautiful Keralite standing near the window was looking at him or me. During lunch at 1:15 it was a different location, but the topic of the discussion was nearly the same.

Hobbies? Well, Cricket is in our blood, so you know… Cricket matches on TV meant no office, no food and no one else in the family got to hold the remote. Evenings were usually spent in the T.R.C School ground. And Sundays usually meant bet matches.  We are both bike freaks and driving to and from OMR to our place was something we really enjoyed. He has an awesome Yamaha that his Uncle had passed on to him, and I, a Pulsar which I made my Dad buy me. Although we loved driving on our bikes alone, during crunch times, we shared a ride to office and home. We were speed freaks and driving on OMR was the best stress buster for both of us.

Accidents? Hell yeah. We shared a whole load of accidents together. 🙂 We’ve got beaten up a lot, so we have a few scars on our bodies from that. Knuckles punctured out by the cricket ball, a few broken ribs, and Ajay had that bump on his forehead from his college cricket tournament. During school, Ajay and me, when trying ‘doubles’ in a cycle, went and hit Sasi Uncle’s parked Esteem. I bruised my knees and Ajay broke his nose, and Sasi Uncle pulled out his hair. Once during college, I had a major accident in Coimbatore, and Ajay rushed in even before my parents did. I heard from Geeta later that he almost broke the face of Ravi who was driving me when he skid on the road. Ravi was unhurt, while I shattered my knee-cap. I was banned from touching the bike for the next few months. Actually it took a lot of convincing from Ajay, for my parents to give me back the keys to my Pulsar. But then, you can’t teach an old dog new tricks you see. A few months ago, I crashed into a lorry in TNagar, with Ajay behind me. I hit my head, broke my leg, got a metal plate inserted here, and became the Iron Man. I set off all Metal detectors in a 2 meter radius. Ajay had a few bruises too. But my bike was totalled beyond recognition. I just had a few beers that day and lost control, but my parents stopped talking to me, so did Ajay’s parents, but I didn’t really care. Ajay made me promise not to go near anything with wheels after that, and I’ve never ever broken a promise that I’ve made to Ajay.

That incident brought a transition in us, and we decided to change our careers. We quit our high paying jobs, and ventured out as a small web page designing company. Ajay was good at the technical stuff, while I handled the finances and the overall business side of things. It was just the 2 of us in the beginning, and Ajay wanted me to be the CEO. 🙂 Oh yeah, CEO of a 2 man company. He was the CTO. 🙂 We suffered a lot initially, with our families shouting at us to stop this buffoonery. My mom cried, asking me to be normal and do what other normal kids do. Frankly I didn’t understand what their problem was, I don’t know what’s so wrong in doing things differently. But I guess, they eventually realized that we were in the right track. And sure enough, in a few months, we were breaking profit. We began hiring more people. My dad told me that he was happy in my success, but I was not sure why he kept silent most of the times. I saw him cry a few times, but I think that was out of happiness, than anything else. Ajay’s parents were clearly not happy with something. I asked Ajay the reason a few times, but he avoided the question every time. After a while he left home, and began staying with me. He only told me that he was doing it for me, and that his parents did not understand it at all. I left it at that.

Our company slowly grew into a decent sized organization. We called ourselves Dreamweavers. It was my idea, andAjay loved it too. And now Dreamweavers has quite a reputation in the market. We moved to London almost a month ago. Dad tagged along as well. Guess he thinks we’re still young kids who don’t know to look after ourselves. I don’t think he’s come to terms that we’re grown men now. Well, I didn’t want to hurt his feelings either so I did not say a word. I’ am loving London actually. It’s a beautiful place to work, but given a chance I’d love to go back to India soon. Ajay’s designs have got these people here really interested. I’ve got people lined up everyday wanting to talk to the prodigy. However, being the shy guy that he is, he lets me do all the talking and interviews. We are growing steadily and consistently. Not bad for a humble startup, don’t you think? Phenomenal growth,. Bbut I have a hunch you’ll be bored with all that biz talk. That’s not want you want to hear isn’t it? You want a successful ‘Friendship’ story? Ours is one.

Love life? Well, with a life like ours, you hardly find time for any of that. Ajay was quite a ladies’ man. He had this thing for Keralite girls. 🙂 Marriage was on cards for him too, but then I think he refused. I tried to talk him into it too, but he just said that he wasn’t ready. There is a certain personal space for a person that you should never invade upon, no matter how close a friend you are. And thankfully, both of us, understood that simple truth, and perhaps the reason that we have been friends so long has been that understanding. This was clearly his personal opinion, and I didn’t want to interfere with that. I’ve heard nothing about any other girl after that, and he’s kept himself too busy for all these. But mind you, we can spend countless hours ogling at the opposite gender, without the slightest of hesitations, any day. No offence. Me? Err You married? Kidding. Well, I’ve never been serious about anyone else. Except maybe Urmila? 😛

Guess, I’ve bored you enough, huh? This isn’t really a story right? It is just a few random incidents strung together. Well, Friendship isn’t a big thing, my dear – it’s a million little things, isn’t it? And whatever happens, Ajay is never too far away from me. And in my opinion, that’s all that matters in a successful friendship. Ok, tell me, what else do you want to know for your story?…

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Interview Transcript – July 1, 2009

Case File : 1108231

Subject Name : Dinesh Rajendran

Diagnosis : Acute Schizophrenia

Comments : Subject claims to be the CEO of a Software Company in partnership with a ‘friend’ – ‘Ajay Kumar’. ‘Ajay Kumar’ was Subject’s best friend from school, but was killed in a motor bike accident in Chennai, India, in 2008. Subject was driving the motor bike with ‘Ajay Kumar’ on pillion and suffered serious head injuries as well. Severe sub cranial injury and guilt, may have driven Subject to this condition. Subject does not exhibit violent traits. Motor skills intact. Subject is open to interviews by familiar people.

Suggested Treatment : Increased dosage of Risperidone, Should be solitarily confined ONLY during extreme behavioral changes.

Case handled by Dr. Aarthi Sridharan, Institute of Psychiatry, South London.

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*** THE END ***


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