Tuesday, August 23

Cut and Dry

Earlier this year, I came across an article which spoke about the return of the quintessential barber shop to France. Considering that male facial hair grooming still follows the 'with moustache / beard / fungus-like goatee or clean shaven' type here in India, our barber shops don't really face much of an issue. Besides, I'm not sure the chaps cutting hair at our local saloons would look too kindly at an instruction of "I would like a shave, but could you leave an almost 3-day stubble?"

Also, after watching The Godfather and Eastern Promises, I've developed a marked reluctance for the idea of getting a shave at the barber's. Call me crazy, but the idea of sitting there, helpless, with your throat exposed while the bloke with the straight-razor hovers over you... no thanks.

But what about the idea of having a favourite barber to cut your hair? As kids, us guys would be taken or told to make our way to the saloon and get the hideous, school-appropriate cut. Lacking any need for special preference in terms of style, it wouldn't really matter which anonymous pair of hands+scissors cut our hair. Conversation was kept to a minimum, with the guy gruffly telling you to tilt your head at particular angles every now and then. All this changes once you reach college and, for perhaps the first time, think about actually getting a genuine haircut, rather than a cranial mow. Or at least, this was the case when I went to college. The trend nowadays seems to be to look about as unwashed and decrepit as society and your mum will allow, matched by a glazed-over or beady-eyed gaze. 

Over the last 10 years, at the local saloon, I've trusted only one or two particular barbers to cut my hair. They're good with the scissors and make polite conversation, which is about all one can generally ask for. If these chaps are out for the day or too busy, I prefer to come back some other time and the routine has chugged along smoothly. Till today, that is. As both of them were on holiday, and I definitely needed a haircut before a client meeting in Bombay later this week, I had no option but to take a number and wait my turn.

My barber for the day was a no-nonsense type. I started to tell him about the exact way I wanted my hair cut, saw his stonily distracted expression in the mirror and resignedly went with the old, school faithful i.e. "Short and even." After almost a decade of ritualised, conversation-peppered haircuts, today was, well... briskly efficient. Let me put it this way - hardbitten sheep shearers deep in the Australian outback probably approach their work with more joie de vivre.

So anyway, thinking back to the article, I can't help but wonder if our desi lot will ever get around to seeing the saloon as more than just a place that men and flies congregate, enveloped in a mist of Old Spice and talcum powder. On the other hand, considering the starting price for the Plisson shaving brush mentioned in that article is approximately Rs. 4000, I think we're okay with the current state of affairs.

Song for the moment: Minor thing - Red Hot Chili Peppers

Saturday, August 20

Bottle it up

Hello?

Its me.

Are you okay?

Yes... I want to tell you something.

Can I say something first?

...

I love you. I do. Its as simple as that. I was stupid... I... god knows what I was thinking. I never wanted us to break up. I was scared... you knew me too well and it scared me. You're still the only person who knows me. I couldn't say anything before... remember when you told me you were getting married? I wanted to tell you then, but I didn't know what you would say. I did not want to hurt you again. I even thought about coming to your house and telling you everything... asking you to call it off but... what if you said no? Even when we met later, it took all I had to not ask you whether you were happy. I wanted to sock the guy. You knew I was a little drunk, right? I was too scared to see you after so long... but, you told me I can still make you laugh. So many times after that, I've stared at your number on the phone... I wondered what's the worst that could happen if I called and told you to divorce him... and, you called now, so I'm saying it... I love you. I didn't want to hurt you. I'm sorry.

...

Hello?

I'm pregnant.

Song for the moment: Love song - Sara Bareilles

Disclaimer: Fiction, of course :)

Monday, August 15

Many the miles

Some time ago, I decided to cut down on the whining that seems to be a major theme on this blog. After having written a couple of short story posts and one interesting challenge, I found that more commentary on life, its machinations and assorted tomfoolery just did not interest me. For the moment, at least. That also thankfully means that I can't talk about the Indian cricket team's test saga.

Anyway, in recent weeks, a new trend has taken root in that fragment of the 'gang' that lives in Pune. Instead of meeting up and hitting the tipple every now and then, we meet and they discuss trekking to various forts in and around Pune. Notice how I'm not in these councils-of-war. Although I've played sports in school and college, I've never been a fan of physical toil. All these talks conjure up are images of waking up at some ungodly hour before sunrise, scooting to some random hill / fort and huffing, puffing, slipping & scrabbling around in near darkness while one's lungs scream blue murder and knees piteously beg for mercy. So of course, when asked whether I'd like to come along, I confidently reply in the negative, right?

Wrong. Much as I abhor these unholy callisthenics, they do promise an element of tiredly pleasant satisfaction at the end. Last weekend's trip to the Chaturshringi temple Tekdi and beyond was fun, involving a shortish climb and much walking and a sumptuous breakfast in the end at Krishna Dining on Law College Road. Ergo, when this weekend's trip to Sinhagad Fort was announced, I was reluctant about the 5 am time, but rather naive about the climb itself. While climbing up to Sinhagad is a Puneri institution, it'd been a long time since I was there, so it was almost like my first trip. And a quarter of the way up the boulder-infested, 35 degree gradient, with superb views of the misty verdant valley and Peacock Bay, I was overwhelmed. With nausea.

Not that it wasn't a beautiful view, mind. Just that I was breathing like an asthmatic on his last legs, which made any and all appreciation of the environment pretty redundant. Fortunately, my climbing mates, KS and GT are the cheery types, not showing a trace of annoyance or trying to bump me off a suitable rock spur. Somehow, I manned up and made it to the top. I suspect it was largely due to the fact that most of the trek was completely cloud-covered, giving spasms of hope that the damn thing would end around the next corner.

While the climb itself was not pleasant for me, the overall experience was lovely. The views, when they broke through the cloud cover, were breathtaking (figuratively speaking of course since I had none to spare by then) and the buttermilk & kande-bhajji  at the fort were excellent. To top it off, the restaurant's cat nonchalantly climbed into my lap and dozed off for the length of the meal. Since I love cats, this didn't bother me in the least. I'm not making this up. A photo exists which will be shared when KS (who was pretty flabbergasted) does so.

On the trip back down, we passed the customary testosterone-fuelled idiots screaming and hooting as they headed up. Methinks the climb would take care of any spare energy eventually. Wearied but generally pleased with both the effort and the fact that we managed to miss the crowd heading up (heaven knows why these chaps want to spend a holiday swarming up to the fort), we made our way home.

There's talk of another such trek in 2 weeks time. Heaven help us all.

Song for the moment: Everybody wants to rule the world - Tears for Fears  

P.S: You lot heading for the Sikkim trip. Practice. Way more than you're doing now.