Thursday, April 10, 2008

A Hairy Tale Ending

(first appeared in

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 )

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

And then came the smile

(first appeared in

“Keep steady man, be cool, be cool “I told myself. She was 200 meters away from me. Immediately I sucked in my burgeoning paunch, adjusted my Infineon badge so it was prominently displayed (why I do this every time, God only knows. Even the sweepers in ITPL, Bangalore have their own badges to show off).I walked towards her with an air of nonchalance. She was my junior from college, and a damm pretty one at that. I had never spoken to her in college though; this must have probably been due to the aura of nerdiness I used to radiate back then. Now the aura has turned into a small halo, but is still definitely there.

This is my big chance, I told myself. My plan was simple (too simple, some of you might argue). As I strutted past her with my stomach tucked in, she just had to notice me and say Hi, I reasoned (the smallness of my halo of nerdiness being prominent in my reasoning). I would then pretend to notice her and feign surprise. In my surprised state, I would blurt out how beautiful (and sexy, if I still had my guts around me till then ) she looked in her maroon outfit today. She would then have to blush, I reasoned again. And so on continued my reasoning. I’m actually very good at reasoning , be it logical reasoning, verbal reasinong, reasoning to evade blame, to gain time etc.

Alas! Today my reasoning made me lose time instead. Before I knew it, she was only 20 meters away from me. And to add salt to the injury, she walked with this huge swarthy bouncer like character next to her. What I had imagined to be a magnified shadow when I first saw her had suddenly turned corporeal. Complimenting her sexiness seemed akin to committing suicide now. Why can’t I be one of those pathetic losers who miraculously seem to have a hot babe stuck to one of their shoulders, I sighed at the world in general and at God in particular. I resigned myself to fate. I decided to go with the ‘strong hunk’ look. Puffing my chest and narrowly avoiding a coughing fit in the process, I walked majestically towards the ‘couple’, all ready to supremely ignore them.

And then came the smile. Bang; without warning, when I least expected it, when all my defences were low. This girl has one of the cutest smiles in ITPL, and that’s saying a lot. ITPL has at least fifteen thousand people, to hazard a guess (as with all my guesses the figure may be considerably off the actual value, so please take this with a cup of salt). We can safely assume that 40 % of them at least are females, which gives us a minimum of six thousand females. Of these at least four thousand would be in the age group of 18 and 27 years. Needless to say, every girl in this age group is trying her best to look gorgeous. Let’s say about one fourth of them are successful. That leaves us with thousand gorgeous females in ITPL. My girl (‘my’ sounds possessive and ridiculously untrue, but what the heck it’s my blog) would rank somewhere in the top twenty to thirty – close to 99.9 percentile.

Anyway, about the smile. She did notice me, and flashed her perfect teeth at my two day stubble. Her face was framed by two narrow strands of jet black hair and her right cheek showed the hint of a dimple. It was a warm smile to say the least and a super hot smile to say the most. And she waved at me in a silly girlish manner which I found very arresting. And even more embarrassing was the fact that I dropped my strong hunk attitude before one could say ‘strong hunk’ and stood engaged in a silly hand wave exchange program with her for a full 3 seconds. And even more embarrassing was the fact that the bouncer guy started waving back !! I smelled something fishy here, and I was not standing at the seafood counter of Civet.

She came forward and introduced me to the bouncer guy. Believe it or not, the bouncer guy was actually a co-worker of hers. I still looked quizzically at him, I had not taken well the act of being waved back sillily(dictionary check) by a hot babe and a monster man at the same time. She explained. Turns out during the time we were separated by a distance of 200m to 20 m, the effects of my mental reasoning were quite physically conspicuous. I had narrowly missed colliding with who dustbins, trod on the toes of a elderly man, walked mostly on the wrong side of the walkway leaving big brown footsteps glistening on the otherwise spotless recently cleaned surface.I had even walked headlong into a nervous gang of girls without noticing, scaring them away from Coffee Day Café. The bouncer guy had found this very funny (I hate his guts by the way) and had motioned my girl to observe me.

I grinned sheepishly at them with a men will be boys kind of look. And walked away huffed. However the after effects of her smile lingered with me, strong and everlasting like the smell of my socks (note to self: quota of one disgusting comparison over for this post). Everything in the mall began to look brighter, and my work for the day didn’t seem so hectic after all. I was even prepared to walk all the way upto the barber shop to get my unsightly stubble replaced by an irresistible clean shaven silkiness (if half of what the Gillete Mach 3 advertisement promises is true)

Ah, the simple pleasures of life! A smile is all it takes to make the world a better place. So I need to stop cribbing and start smiling more even if others take me for a dork, I reasoned.