Tag Archives: friends

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

The Palace of my Dreams!


This is one of the first posts that I had written ever. And nostalgia, made me repost it after ages.

Not so long ago, a bunch of college kids landed up in a college far away from home, and decided to rent a house after they found the hostel too cramped, and the food too boring. They found an old, rickety chettinad house, which luckily the owner was ready to rent out to bachelors. And thus they found their ‘Palace’, their bungalow, their home for 4 years. I loved my palace of 4 years, and every second of the time spent there. And yes, I miss it, big time.

Though we were staying in a place most of us would call a village, we had some neat stuff filled in, built out of our home made technology. Barani had brought in an old black and white tv from his house. It was wonderful, considering it still ran, albeit being pronounced dead in the Barani household. It was on its way to a tv shop for a few hundred rupees when Barani thought we could do something with it. A few hundred rupees and a trip to the tv repair shop later, we had our own personal tv, which only a privilleged few in the student community had. And we did not stop with that. Elay got a car audio. All of us pooled in whatever speakers we could find, I gave my walkman speakers and a single torn speaker from home, Abhi and Elayraja got a couple of small speakers, Barani gave one, and with the help of a big roll of copper wire, we started wiring up our project. Our sound engineer – Elayraja ‘borrowed’ a couple of our owner’s earthern pots from the ‘maadi’ and fixed our speakers inside them. A Sunday later, we had our own ‘9.something’ Home Theater. Move over Bose and Blaukpaunt, the sound effect was surreal. Mainly because we built it ourselves. It was a home theater in its true sense. You could hear it from any corner of our home. Right from the door to the bathroom. We had lined up our house with speakers.

There was something I devised to isolate our ‘study/sleep’ room from the music when we were actually studying/sleeping. At the rare occasion when a few actually had to concentrate and study something and the others felt the urge to listen to music, we set up a switch that would cut off the music to the speaker in the study room. I was so proud of the innovation, that sometimes I spent time in the room just to use that switch. Since that room did not have a ceiling fan, and our budget did not permit us to get one, I brought a tiny table fan from home that was being used in my home as an exhaust fan. That didn’t work too well, and we were not surprised because we felt that more power went to the surface of the fan than to its motor. We used it to test our electric tester sometimes watching it glow to its fullest, and sometimes to jolt up unsuspecting first time visitors to our palace. But I loved that fan nevertheless, as it stood in a corner, unrivalled, untouched, spinning away to glory.

Initially we had no cable connection. There was a cable wire running in our maadi. But we decided against the ‘pirated’ connection because we were honest guys. And also that the wire was very visible from the road, and any malpractice would surely be noticed and scoldings and bad words would have followed. Being the geniuses that we were, we devised a small receiver out of tin foil, aluminium hangers and magnetised needles and kept it close to the cable wire a few inches away, away from the sight of prying eyes of the cable guy. To our amazement and surprise, we got a hazy picture in the tv of a few channels. Satisfied with our achievement we sat smiling, admiring our genius on the screen. But a few days later there was an argument whether the actress in that song was Simran or Trisha or Reema Sen. Somebody claimed that it was the hero himself. And during the triangular series, when in the 40th over, the wind knocked out our reciever, we decided that it was worth getting a proper, original cable connection and shell out a few bucks every month, than getting the match status from somebody else.

We also offered our services to our less privilleged, less creative friends by letting them watch tv at our p(a)lace or setting up similar contraptions in their rooms. Our fees – Bajjis and Bondas for all of us in the evenings. Heck we were studying to be engineers. That’s the least we could do. Help mankind with our expertise. Ours was a popular hangout for most of our friends, much to the dismay of our neighbours. During matches, everytime Sachin hit a four, our neighbours were hit with an avalanche of shouts, wolf whistles, screams and claps. It was an experience that all of us would treasure for our lifetime. Lying on that cliched – ‘Kizhinja paayi’ and watching Sun tv till late night and waking up to the beats of a ‘gaana paatu’. Dancing to a rehman number in the bathroom, fighting over the channel to watch, that argument of which hero was popular, boy I miss it all. There was so much that we guys did that we would never be able to do again.

Today I have a 29 inch, Sony Wega tv at home which is hooked up yo a 5.1 Home theater. A Sony music system, DVD player, CAS, Set-top box, you name it. But I badly miss the setup that we created back in the college days. This crystal clear picture with sharp audio could never match up to that hazy picture and loud audio that we experienced in our palace. Now when I think of it, I realise, that I had left behind some friends, some experiences and some treasures when I graduated. And I am sure everybody would be feeling exactly what I do. Its just not about the things you have, its the people you share it with. Oh boy…. I miss it all.

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