Henry Baldacci hated his last name. Baldacci is definitely not as cool a surname as Bond or Balaji, but it isn’t something to be horrified about either, like Bush or Bairappa. Henry however was 18 years young and balding. Every morning his pillow seemed to have more hair than his head. He felt as a chicken must feel while its neck is stroked by the fine blade of a butcher. Childhood dreams of becoming a rock star and romancing bimbos seemed to be getting thinner and thinner….
It was the eve of his 18th birthday. Henry had two things to do before he officially became a man a) Get a tattoo b) Either get a respectable last name which didn’t hint at his (soon to be) unhairy status, or some sort of treatment for the time being. The former, being comparatively easy is no more the subject of this post. About the latter. He met up with his underpants friend (chuddi dost, if you will. Meanings do get lost in translation) Nick. “Wasssssssssssup maaan !!!” Shouted Nick, clad in a shorts, sea blue shirt and a hat that looked more like paper dosa. Nick, having discovered he was one seventh Jamaican now wore a Jamaican accent and dreadlocks. Angered by his ample dreadlocks, Henry asked him to shut the hell up.
So how’s it going with Shruti maaan, countered Nick. Henry and Nick were exchange program students at the IIM, Bangalore. And Henry was trying to convince Shruti how spending quality time with a (soon to be) tattooed American hunk might not spell disaster to her family after all.
“Forget her and get the car out, we are going to Dr Batra’s. And get rid of that hat, jackass”
“Maan , never heard of a pub like that before.. So you get some different sort of stuff there eh … and what about the drugs, are they medicinal too ..he he “
“Its not a pub”
“Whaaaat? So we are actually going to a doctor??!”
Henry painfully and shamefully told Nick that Dr Batra’s was a homeopathy clinic. Nick’s eyes took eternity to swivel on to Henry’s pate, during which time Nick was struggling to keep his mouth line as parallel to his hat as possible.
“So, you going there for stomach trouble??” Nick’s mouth gave up all pretense of being a straight line and assumed the semblance of a lopsided grin.
“ Cut it out and get the car, dude” Henry was definitely not in a good mood today.
“Why don’t you go by yourself, maan. The car has hardly any petrol by the way"
“Then people will think somethings wrong with me”
“Oh so nothings wrong eh?” (After an afterthought) “Maaaaaaan”
“Of course, nothings wrong. Just have a bad case of dandruff” Nick’s mouth began the struggle again. “And if you come, people will not know who’s got issues. You don’t look too healthy with your dreadlocks and all ,y’know” Fed up with his friends cowardice, Nick resignedly agreed but told him not to expect birthday presents for the next decade.
Nick got out the four wheels and both of them proceeded to Dr Batras. The tension was palpable. They parked the car far away from the clinic and furtively looked around. Convinced that no one they knew were in sight, they rushed out of the car and made a beeline for the clinic. Nick entered the clinic first. No sooner had he proceeded two steps ahead when he turned, and laughing uncontrollably he dragged Henry back to the porch. Henry looked mutinous. Before Nick could stop him again, Henry shrugged himself free and summoned his guts to walk straight in. And then he walked straight out. Although he knew the answer, he hurled a perfunctory “Why’d younotstopme???!!!” at Nick. But it was too late.
Shruti now was standing at the clinic door. She had clearly been accompanying someone elderly to the clinic. “Whats wrong with you two? In India people generally don’t act like raving lunatics at the doctors place” “Unless they are at a mental hospital…. she continued, extremely pleased with her sense of humor.
For Henry however , it nothing remotely close to humor. He felt completely exposed , balder than the baldest man alive. Nick asked me to accompany him, he shouted shrilly. Even a four year old with buck teeth could have sensed what Henry was trying to hide. Eyes swivelling on to Henry’s pate, Shruti desperately tried to keep her mouth as straight as possible. She failed spectaculary.
The tragic final scene looked like this to a concerned passerby : A girl and a dreadful looking dreadlocked foreigner rolling hopelessly with laughter outside a respectable clinic, with a albino kid looking at them defiantly and angrilty, all the while trying to force his wisps of hair to defy gravity and the forces of wind. This story being set in India, the passerby played his part by offering no help and continued walking with a chalta hai kinda attitude.
Unable to laugh any further, the two looked sheepishly at Henry while their brains raced in time to come up with possible words of comfort. Shilpa decided to humor him just this once. “So about the movie plan I cancelled last Sunday….”
“It’s still on this week at PVR” gushed Henry with bated breath, reminding Nick of the friendly IIMB dog which would wag its tail at the slightest hope of reward.
Ok, just this once... said Shruti.
Fine. I’ll pick you up this weekend. Henry barely managed to keep his cool as he walked back to the car.
“So its goodbye to Dr Batra eh “asked Nick from behind the steering wheel.
“Yup, goodbye to good old Dr Batra” told Henry. “And Baldacci’s definitely not such a bad name after all” thought Henry.
(This story is a product of my unbridled imagination, and is fiction to the best of my knowledge. Any resemblance to real people must be an act of God )