29 May, 2010

Hairy Task

His fingers were never still as I watched him. They seemed to be tapping out a beat that only he was privy to. Quite suddenly they broke off their tap and moved to his nape and traced a leisurely path , from the lobe of the left ear; one of the rare un follicled part on his face,  to the front and dove into the thick fuzz. He just seemed to be in love with it, this fuzz. As he ruffled it something darted in and out and I held my breath. Yikes... he did have creatures living in there...overtly he seemed clean and spruced up but was my first observation incorrect? There… he had plucked it out in a pinch. Having peered at it from behind round steel rimmed spectacles I sensed a smile underneath the bush as he gently laid it down. The tiny black ant ran away and the breath I was holding in apprehension of a nastier, ickier creature was let out in relief. The fingers ruffled the facial fuzz some more and crumbs fell out. Jeez…Toasted brown bread for breakfast was my assessment, that answered the foraging ants presence. 

Now before you ask me where was I and didn’t I have anything better to do than watch strangers do their finger tricks? Let me first appraise you on the state of my mind and what brought it to this state. I was nervous and in such a state my eyes do wander. I was at A-1 hair cutting saloon waiting my turn, This hairy jungle on two legs had just stepped in a few minutes after me. For me this was a bi-monthly trimming ritual. 

A tradition started by my old man, He was big on them...traditions. This one though had its roots in a fight, not a nasty venomous one but a healthy friendly yet serious one, with my best pal Rohan. Not only were we heaving and grunting but shouting and screaming as well. Yes, we may have been a tad bit too loud and If my memory serves me right the window panes did rattle with the decibel level generated. We were blissfully engaged in the endeavor of attempting to yank out the others tresses from their roots. With a jerk we were pulled apart, one adult held us apiece. I looked up to see the red face of dad. Each of us triumphantly had managed a few locks of the other in our fists, and waved it in the others face. It was this gesture that began the tradition come to think of it. Both of our fathers arrived at the same solution instantly. We were dragged to the A-1 Hair Cutting Saloon. Rohan was handed over to Vijay anna & yours truly to Velu anna the grumpiest of the scissor hands there.

Velu and Vijay anna were brothers who stayed a few dwellings away from us. Theirs was the first barber shop in our quaint little hamlet of this mega polis. This literally made them pillars of our community with the lordly title of town barbers. It was this neighborly loyalty that had our fathers conspire to get both their first born offspring’s to A-1. In the chair something white billowed in front of my face and suddenly felt I was in a strait jacket, so tightly had Velu anna wrapped a sheet around me. Rohan’s expression told me he fared no better. The manner in which Velu anna handled my neck and head , had this been the USA I may have sued him for dangerous assault and even won. With geography  not on my side i had all the joints in my neck stress tested to their absolute limit. It was yanked this way and that with the gleaming steel scissors clicking dangerously close. This scared the turd out of my rear end. Within no time at all I started to feel the cold air on my head. Sneaking a look saw that Rohan was in the same boat. We were a hairs breadth from being totally scalped, excuse the hairy pun... But on a gentler note would still maintain that our state of affairs was akin to that of a chicken...one that had been savagely plucked.

Rohan and I didn’t have any options as the paters looked on sternly. Under their glare the V anna siblings went about their task methodically and with a thorough diligence. Nastily i thought that their skills were wasted on the civilians, surely they should be serving our men in Uniform on some remote border of this large country. why did they have to choose just this very locality?

Have you ever noticed that knowledge has a funny tendency to flash with startling clarity at weird moments? While trussed up in Velu annas chair I could trace the evolution of the word "barbarian". How rich was I for this brilliant piece of self realization that it brought the beginnings of a smile . But before it could spread and settle down was brutally wiped away by Velu Anna who held up a mirror to my face and slowly took it all round. One completely strange bozo sporting a pin cushion that masqueraded as a hair cut stared back from it. I almost jeered at him for a minute that it took to figure out who it was. I screamed. The mirror reflected back my tonsils twitching jerkily as I went about it. What a fabulous color of pink were they. One slap from my dad ended both my vocal performance and  tonsular appreciation. Now do you see, why this place gives me the jitters.A visit to a salon of which A-1 is just a symbolic reference, is associated with punishment and an abysmal performance output.

All I can say is that this is my last but one favorite, must visit destination on this planet. Which is the winner you ask, the top dog position...well...that has to be the dentist. It was a tough call between these two. This place edges out the dentist primarily because it keeps better magazines.

Neksshhhht… came the shout and the beard looked at me with beseeching eyes and I realized that it was not restlessness that caused his fingers to wander but rank abject fear. I was not the only one, there had to be a story somewhere with him too...his fuzz had suddenly attained a Freudian significance going by my own experience. But lets leave his story for some other day...today its my turn. Steeling myself I got up and occupied  the indicated chair hoping to get it over with and fast, my bi-monthly hairy task.  

22 May, 2010

Looking Glasses

It was the mood that came upon him and he woke up. The bedside clock radiated 4.15 am. Totally restless & feeling the walls closing in on him, he had grabbed the car key and simply taken off. The need to feel the wind on his face was overpowering. He had topped the tank at the gas station and hit the main road. After a while he found himself cruising along Marine Drive. Even at this time the horseshoe shaped sea face sparkled with the headlights of zipping vehicles, streetlights and billboards. He tasted salt on his lips from the cool sea wind. He liked it this dry flavor. Traffic was sparse. He was on autopilot as his movements kept the powerful hatchback in a smooth cruise. The eyes alternately scanned the road ahead through the windscreen and the rear view mirror. Looking glasses both, he said to himself; vision gateways.

He switched on the radio and Hemant Kumar gently hummed…

Hmm….hmmm hmmm..Pukar lo, Tumhara intezaar hai…tum pukar lo
Khwaab chun rahi hai raat..beqaraar hai

The words hit a spot and he automatically looked in the mirror. Was it his imagination or did he see a pair of nut brown eyes in it? The song faded into the background as the wind swept away the years and he traveled back. Yet another car, that time around, a large SUV with other people in it. A friendly banter had been on. Sitting in the front it was easier talking to people behind looking through the mirror rather than craning the neck. She was spewing words nineteen to a dozen having a whale of a time pulling each ones leg in style. It was in the mirror that he saw for the first time that her eyes were a curious shade of almond, flecked nut brown. He had not been able to drag his gaze off after that as he observed her quietly. While making a point the flecks sparkled. She seemed to have felt his gaze and their eyes met; almond became roast. Just for a moment a question mark sprung up in them and as his lips twitched they twinkled again. He was lost completely. She had smilingly raised one eyebrow as he shrugged raised both of his and smiled back. The others chattered on oblivious. Then a game was on. Not a word directly spoken except for general talk with the others while the mirror became their own special conduit to a different deeper communique.

Hemant da stepped into this train of thoughts and crooned on.

Honth pe liye hue...Dil ki baat hum. Jaagtey rahenge aur kitni raat hum
Mukhtasar si baat hai..Tumse pyaar hai...Tumhara Intezaar hai..
Hmmmm hmmm hmm Pukar lo

Many a sleepless night had passed but somehow the words that formed on the lips never spilled over. Each had waited for the other in anticipation and the window of time that had opened a whisker very gradually shut. Even today he didn’t have a fix on the why of that silence. But the moment and connect was pure and the memory had stayed on.
Hemant Kumar now seemed to be voicing his very thoughts. He just smiled to himself wryly. Earlier he had always flowed with the voice and the lilt of the gentle melody but today the words of Gulzar were the ones making an impact. The brown eyes twinkled back from the mirror.

This was not him. He had never ever believed in the hoary cliché of the greatest love is the one unfulfilled. But he was not clear at this instant. It was only when the brow over one eye shot up in the mirror that he burst out laughing and they laughed with him. He felt the restlessness inside subsiding. Was it the drive,the cool windy night,the melodious song or was it the eyes in the mirror? It was a little bit of all of them…

Hemant da’s final words enveloped him; the tune that seemed haunting triggering of a stray memory moments ago now sounded soothing.

Dil bahal to jaayega is khayal se...Haal mil gaya tumhara apne haal se
Raat ye qaraar ki beqarar hai...Tumhara intezaar hai

Dawn had broken and the streetlights were turning off. The city was waking up shedding its slumber reluctantly. The view through the windshield grabbed his attention now. Sitting up straight shaking his reverie he saw that he had started back. The eyes had smiled one last time through the mirror and his face had swum back into focus. Restlessness like the moment was gone.

As he reached home a taxi just stopped in front of his gate and he could see that the wife was alighting with her overnighter. She was back. Seeing her something caught up in his throat. She turned and saw him and the deep black eyes lit up. All this he saw through the windshield. He glanced at the mirror and his own eyes stared back. Looking glasses both.