Sunday, November 25, 2012

Bald Spots & Barbers

I try to pull a Ranbir Kapoor from Anjaana Anjaani, who stands resting his back against the wall. The office workload and the pseudo post breakup grimace on my face; I act it out perfectly while in the shower, trying to look as serious as Alok Nath with four widowed daughters. I let the water pour on my head and trickle down my cheeks to mask the tears which I wish I could act well enough to secrete naturally from my eyes. My heart does a bit of a jig inside, telling itself that its abode is a brilliant actor. I try hard to not let the scene break, and enjoy the beauty of an act like that in a hot shower on a winter morning. With some experience in theatre, one tends to push it further and overact a bit. So, I decide to tilt my head further back into the wall and then crouch down silently, gliding my spine on the bathroom tiles to my way down. That is the plan. Ah, let’s do it! And as soon as my head decides to obey my command and places the tip, the little circle that makes a whirlpool of hair on my scalp, against the wet tile, I feel a tender cold touch on my head. It’s a nice cold feeling. I begin to wonder why I never experienced it before. I wonder why I couldn’t feel it at the lower back of my head when it was touching the bathroom wall for the past few minutes. Oh wait! The scene breaks due to a brilliant realization right in the middle of a Bathroom Oscar winning performance.

I immediately move away from the edge of the bathroom, and my fingers run to the top of my head. They pat around violently, in a state of confusion, stomping the finger tips on my scalp trying to imitate Sunny Deol’s foot movements in the song where he does this pulling out a hand-pump from the ground step. (Which song was that?) I throw a towel on my head, rub it furiously and then reveal my dried hair to the mirror. I’ve had a receded hairline for quite some time now, but I don’t think one can look at the back of my head and point out that I’m balding. Y’know, how Saif’s hair has styled itself since Race hit the theatres some four years back. But my fingers suddenly feel cooler on the scalp, right on the tip of my head. I figured how I didn’t wish to try crazy hairstyles like Akshay Khanna to hide the soon to appear bald spots, so a trip to the barber was planned. “I’ll keep my hair cropped short. Short is neat. It’s neat in a suit, nasty in a leather jacket.” *chewing on a twig smirk, baby doll*

I walk into the barber shop and see the seats occupied. I really hope that the guy who I like getting my hair cut from gets free before the other two hair dressers. I always feel a little sad when put in a situation where I’m invited to a chair, but have to heartlessly deny the offer ‘cuz I don’t want to be attended to by the not so experienced barber. In my defense, whenever I’ve thought of being a nice guy and giving the youngest barber a chance to cut my hair, the session has always ended with me wanting to ask him if even his sister would ever think of dating someone whose hair has been cut like that.

I decide to wait on the couch and flip through all the pictures in the Filmfare and Stardust lying on the table in front of me before it’s time for my turn. Deciding on the speed at which one flips pages is a gamble, here. I don’t want to be done with looking at just half a magazine till I’m called for my turn; nor do I want to finish flipping through them too early. It’s just like rationing the portion of subzi on your plate to match with the morsels of rotis on your platter. (It’s a bloody middle class analogy, really. But whatever, I do it all the time.) I try to read an article in the magazine, and call it a coincidence if you may; any article that interests me is next to a full page lingerie ad. Every effing time! Now, it’s ok. I’m at a place full of men. No one’s gonna judge me even if that page is blaring into everyone’s faces right in the middle of the “saloon”. All the uncles sitting around will probably thank me for holding on to that page for that long. “Ah, it’s all chill. Read the interview anyway”, I tell myself. And then in a minute, I start to feel really awkward about the tubelight reflecting on the glossy paper with a picture of a red laced undergarment. “Fudge, is it weird that I’m still reading this?”… “Um, I think I’ll just turn the page.”… “Uh, no. I think people know I’m grown up enough to be ok with this. Let’s just read on.”… “Fudge it, I’m turning the page”.

I’m soon called by the guy who normally cuts my hair, and I thank my stars for not putting me in the I’m-not-getting-a-haircut-from-you situation today. I sit on the chair and he puts the blue cloak around me. It’s not one of those fancy barber cloaks that has a velcro collar. It’s like one of those cheap polyester bed sheets that he’ll furl in the air like a matador after the haircut, and make hair rain in the room. He knots it around my neck, uses his spray gun to wet my hair and then asks how I’d want it cut. It’s funny how he asks that every time, when I’m not someone who has ordered for a mullet one time and a mohawk the next time in the past seven years of letting him cut my hair. So I tell him to shorten my side-burns while keeping their volume intact, knowing well enough that he’ll crop the hair around my ears really short again. “Baal chhote kar dena”, I tell him, also specifying that I want it short enough to not be combed and long enough for it to not stand like baby porcupine spines on my head.

He starts snipping, while watching either Zee Cinema or Star Cricket. I can tell from knowing him through all these years that he is a big fan of Govinda and Ajay Devgn. It kind of scares me at times, since these are the only two actors whose movies’ rights Zee Cinema can afford to buy. And then there’s a bit of a Govinda look alike in Sehwag, too. It scares me ‘cuz then he gets distracted, running his fingers through the holes on the scissors, while keeping his eyes fixed on the TV screen. My fear vanishes in less than fifteen seconds, when I start finding the dialogues interesting and try to look at the television set from the mirror in front of me. What follows is a push of his hand on my head to tilt and get the right angle, countered by the thrust of my head against his hand so that I can enjoy a few minutes of a ‘90s Govinda starrer through the corner of my eyes.

He finally stops and asks me if I think the length of the hair is fine. I just nod in silence, knowing that no matter how good or bad a job he does of cutting my hair, it’s all eventually in the hands of mother nature. He holds up a mirror at the back of my head and I see my hair thinning. It breaks my heart a little too much and I ask, “Baal kam ho gaye na?” He replies like a Haryanvi Shahrukh to Preity Zinta in Kal Ho Naa Ho, saying that it’s all gonna be fine. He gives me a nice head massage to relieve the tension off, knowing that I’ll tip him extra for that. I gladly get up after having let my head be treated like a percussion instrument, and pay him a little extra with a smile.

It’s effing gay how towards the end, this is sounding more like some deep connection I have developed with my barber over a haircut, and less about my thinning hair. But anyway, it’s a sign of growing up isn’t it? Pessimists call it ageing. But, growing up it is, and I think I’ll let my new hairstyle grow on me. (Bad, bad pun.)

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This post originally appeared on Walk Into My Web as a guest post. You can check it out here.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Here's Your Birthday Gift, Sucka! (Guest Post)

‘Ello! I hope you had a bright and brilliant Diwali.

I had been asking my friend Ankita to write something for my blog for a very long time. On spending months to come up with an interesting topic, it seems she found nothing more interesting in the world than me. “Girls” I tell you! So here she’s written a little piece, which she says had been written for my birthday, which passed away on the 3rd of November. I’ll take credit for selecting the picture for the post. That’s me in her arms and she’s making me cut my birthday cake. *Woof*

Sarthak Ahuja has been badgering me to write him a guest post since the day I sent him a mail appreciating his blog (well, the time frame would be an exaggeration. But anyone who has had the fortune of talking to this lad would know that he can talk in an hour what Arnab Goswami talks in a year. No kidding). I hate writing. I started hating it since I was compelled to make stipulated submissions within a deadline for my college magazine, and the beauty and magic of inking words into a composition lost its charm. And here I am, attempting to write something funny. I cannot write anything funny or humorous. So if you wind up nauseated at the futile effort towards wit by the time you laboriously reach the end, please kill Sarthak Ahuja.

I came upon this blog through a friend whose friend is friends with Sarthak. And I liked it so much that I decided to write him a mail lauding his blog. Actually, the deceiving header photo which is displayed on the blog was the trigger for this impulsive action, but we’ll assume for the time being that my interest in the blog and its author’s writing skills far outweighed my interest in the author, and me and my roommates swooning over the cute guy did not even list in the scheme of things considered before shooting the mail (I tell you, the picture is very, very deceptive). So I sent the mail.

About a zillion mails and gtalks later, I have qualified enough to blabber away at the slightest provocation reasons for NOT sending a fan mail to your favourite blogger. You see, when I first sent the oh-man-you-write-so-well-as-to-dazzle-my-overbearing-stephanian-roomie, little did I know that the man was as garrulous and over-zealous as Rakhi Sawant blustering away to glory on the sets of aap ki adaalat (For all that he knew, I might have been a lunatic stalker with a SSSSSarthak fetish, out to pester him for the rest of his life until I died a martyr’s death trying to extricate him from his millionth girlfriend. Indiscreet much, huh?). So interacting with I-can-even-talk-to-a-lamppost Ahuja has consequently given rise to many contingencies, the following to name a few (you can add to the list, of course. Listening about every random dweeb to inhabit this planet can only cause so many grievances)


The first e-mail I sent across got in its reply some attached pictures of some random person’s guinea pig, and in its wake brought along a deluge of pictures with every e-mail. Some days back, as I casually sifted through the pictures in my laptop, I realised that I had Sarthak’s girlfriends’ photos, their doggies’ and guinea pigs’ photos, some pink-coloured piggy-shaped USB photo (why would anybody send a picture of a USB?), his aquarium’s pictures and some XYZ’s birthday gift’s photos. And I am not adding to that list the numerous guy pictures he’s sent across (the prospective boyfriends for the single me) since he was doing me a favour with that. But the end result was the same- an avalanche of pictures.

I have reciprocated in kind, though. I didn’t desist from attacking his phone and mailed him every random picture I could lay my hands on. Prospective ‘4th’ girlfriend for him, some friend’s crush’s photo, roommate’s horrendously hideous high school photos, I sent them all. Pictures, pictures everywhere…not one worth glancing at.


Now this is something I hadn’t bargained for. I need 8 hours of sleep, and an early morning (read 9 O’ clock) call is completely unwarranted. I am still in college, fella, so please let me fill up my required sleep quota before I am forced to get up at the ungodly hour of 6 at dawn and slog my way through my sucking future job. And Sarthak Ahuja has a particular knack for waking you up when you need to sleep the most- the holidays. You are happily dreaming about your crush taking you out to some club-cum-restaurant, and then, well, trying to rape you, when suddenly Sarthak Ahuja- the saviour comes to the rescue with his phone call! Your dazed mind tries to process the flood of words flowing from the other end, and by the time you’ve got hold of your bearings, Mr Ahuja has reached his office and disconnected the call. You’re wide awake now, and no matter how much you try to regain the lost sleep, it just evades you. Your Nani, who’s been trying to wake you up for over 2 hours for breakfast, silently thanks the caller who saved her granddaughter from eternal breakfast-damnation.


Since July, Sarthak has been plaguing me to write for his blog. Not a conversation goes without a subtly brutal reminder of my non-compliance. One blog post…Can’t you write just one blog post? I have dodged even my mother’s requests for an article on some outdated and over-discussed economics topic for some outdated magazine, because I have lost the patience to sit back and write, but Sarthak was unyielding in his pursuit. Throwing in some feelers that he wrote well and his blog was popular enough to not need anybody else guest posting didn’t help. His other nikamme friends gave his requests a wide berth (very intelligent they are, I must say), but my refusals always fell on deaf ears. So I finally gave in, and decided to caricature The Sarthak Ahuja on his own blog.

After reading this, I don’t think he will ever ask me to write for him again. But if he does (you thick-skinned Gandhi ke chele, will you ever give up?), I know what his blog needs to be adorned with- his I-am-so-cool-yo teenage photos from Facebook, which look like stills from some Karan Johar movie. Yes, that is exactly what his blog lacks. 

Friday, November 2, 2012

From Baba Ramdev's Cafe to The Chotiwala

Yo, fellow Novemba lova’s! It’s now been three days since I’m back from my cousin’s wedding in Dehradun. It goes without saying that it was a lot of fun. It had to be, as at no other wedding have I seen the groom blow whistles from on top of the ghodi and make the Titanic pose with the little kid sitting in front of him on the milky white mare, while the rest of the baraatis dance to Chikni Chameli being blared into a microphone by a twenty year old male band-wala. Getting solo pictures of him clicked for about an hour after the var-maala ceremony, posing like Yo Yo Honey Singh, our dulha was the true star of the whole wedding. He even shed a few tears at the time of the bidaai; probably because we didn’t get “Mele maamu ki chaadi me jalool jalool aana” on his wedding cards. But all’s well that ends well.

I won’t make this a wedding post. There are a lot of fun memories which may then need to be reported, and I’ll get killed if I tell you about how we stuck around in the newlywed couple’s room on their first night, demanding a plate each of bread omlette as treat at 5 in the morning. Equally risky will be publically mentioning all the innuendos about doodh and badam that were shamelessly narrated in front of the new bride while she blushed around her hubby-bubby and saasu-in-law. So, I’ll just take you through some random food places visited by my good self (yes, sir ji *grins*) on our way to and from the city of Dehradun.

Baba Ramdev’s CafĂ©, yo!

The family decided to halt somewhere close to Haridwar in the evening for a cup of chai each, when someone suggested that we stop at Baba Ramdev’s Patanjali Ashram and try out the range of exotic jadi-booti wali chai that he has to offer. In another twenty minutes, our cars drove into the Patanjali Ashram premises. Even though the baba has done a neat job of lifting design ideas from the various Iskcon temples across the country, the cafeteria matches his personality to a tee. There were sweets like amla barfi and lauki barfi for sale, apart from bhalle-papdi garnished with kaale channe. Since no one really had the heart to gorge on food made of pube like herbs, the elders decided to sip some good ‘ol adrak wali chai while we kids thought it would be safest to have an ice-cream cone. It turned out that baba’s staff thinks vanilla is the English for sugar, and we had to lick the off-white cream for a few minutes till we realized that it was actually batasha flavored. The cones went down the bin, and we washed down the flavor with a fistful each of aaloo bhujia that we were smart enough to carry from home. We drove out of the ashram with the elders cursing the baba for being power hungry, and the kids fantasizing about tricking him into doing aasans that would make him kick his own butt.

Jain Shikanji Everywhere!

If you’ve been to Haridwar, Rishikesh or Mussoorie by road, I’m sure you’ve seen huge boards of Jain Shikanji adorning the highway for a stretch of about ten kilometers after crossing Meerut. Jain Shikanji has been around since the time my dad used to visit the abovementioned places with his cousins as a kid. There has never been a trip to Rishikesh when we haven’t stopped at this shikanji stall for a glass of chilled lemon masala soda. Except this time, the elders were in too much of a rush to reach the wedding town to even care to slow down in front of the shikanji stall and naino mein basaao the uncle ji whose photo is the business’ famous trademark. There are a couple of fake Jain Shikanji stalls too, but you’ll know the original one by recognizing the photo of Jain Shikanji Uncle who has full hair, a neat Premchand mustache, and a face that makes you wonder whether he is smiling or has been blessed with looks like that.

There was no shikanji break for us this time, but if you ever take the same route, stop for two glasses of shikanji with a plate of paneer pakoda. My treat.

Cheetal Grand and Moolchand

Cheetal and Moolchand are two places you can stop at for breakfast, lunch or dinner. They’re mini resorts trying hard to look like a Haldiram’s with hotel rooms, and have actually done a better job at it than the real Haldiram. Cheetal has a fancy bird zoo where you’ll often find roosters engaged in hilariously amusing crowing competitions. But I’m no fan of caging pretty birds, so Moolchand ranks no lower in my list despite being a little less popular than the former. The gardens at both these places are really well maintained, with flowers gyrating like in a Rajesh Khanna movie to show a kiss. The staff is way more welcoming than the half pundits we met at Patanjali. Drop at Cheetal for a meal on your way up, and try Moolchand on your way back. Ek trip pe do nishaane, yo!

Vishal Dhaba, Oodi Baba!

There has never been a trip to Rishikesh when we haven’t had at least one meal at the famous Chotiwala Restaurant, which is a five minute walk from the bathing ghats. But on our last trip, we were very disappointed with the quality of food served at both the adjoining Chotiwala’s owned by the two brothers who inherited half each of the original restaurant property. I also realized that I love food more than the sight of a fat, pink colored, glitter covered man with a pony tail sitting outside an eating joint, inviting people to walk in by constantly ringing a mandir ki ghanti. So this time, we did a bit of asking around to find the best eating place in Rishikesh, and I can bet your  first girlfriend’s virginity that you cannot find a better eating place in the whole city than Vishal Dhaba.

Vishal Dhaba is on the side of the Ganges opposite to Chotiwala. We ordered handis full of Paneer Butter Masala, Channa Masala and Kadhi Pakoda and the taste of the food made us all have twice the number of chapattis that we normally have. Huge thalis were given to us for pouring generous servings of the dishes into. The kheer that followed tasted more like a royal preparation of rabri. The food made us so happy that we refused to leave the dhaba till the cook also made a special cup of chai for all of us, thus keeping the dhaba open for an hour more than its closing time.

Chuck rafting; my next trip to Rishikesh will be solely dedicated to Vishal Dhaba. And you must accompany me to experience food orgasm! *Ooh, Aah, Burp*

You may also try the poori-sabzi that they sell at Geeta Ashram. It’s very hygienically prepared and is priced at Mc Donald’s ki advert wale zamaane ke daam. And, oh, you can tell me about some nice eating places that you know of on the same route. I’ll probably be making a trip again soon. :)

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