Wednesday, February 04, 2004

At the Barber's

It started off like any typical Sunday morning, the late hour movie on Surya TV the night before making you get up late. You try sleeping a lil' more but the craving in the stomach hits you hard. As you lazily wake up to brush your teeth, the wizzened unshaven face stares you back on the mirror. And you notice there's too much hair on the head too.

You start contemplating a bit about the risk of going for a haircut/shave on a Sunday. With nothing in particular to do then, you put a Tee on and drag yourselves to the good old neighborhood saloon. As you had expected, there is the whole Sunday bunch of competitors waiting before you.

However, you are welcomed by the Senior, the owner of the saloon and you answer it with your best grin, showing the others there that you are a favored customer. Since all the waiting chairs are occupied, you stand there trying to get any bit of newspaper or a magazine and to browse through whatever you lay your hands on. As you try hard not to show your inner feelings, there's a hot political topic being discussed. You try to think and at the same time read but end up doing neither. You finally get out of the shop, to the nearby tea stall, a note of caution thrown at the Senior to keep note of your going inbetween just for a tea.

As you drink the watery tea, the stomach tries to throw up. You try very hard to contain it with a smoke. You grab a biscuit from one of the bottles which had not seen a wash since it was made. You then trudge back to the saloon.

After waiting for almost an hour, it's your turn to mount the King's chair. When you sit there, a kutti paiyan approaches you with the comb and a pair of scissors, asking you how the hair needs to be done. You throw an angry look at him, rise your voice saying that only the Senior can touch your hair. But the senior is engaged with a fatty, fiftyish mama and he looks at you with a pleading face. You then make what you think was a clever decision. You ask the boy to shave you first while you can wait for the Senior to finish off with uncaji and come to you later.

As the boy works up a rich lather, you give him a doubtful look of whether he'll make an ugly cut to your face. The shave begins and you start to relax a bit. All the waiting and anxiety till then makes you relax a wee bit too more and you doze off. As your head starts falling to one side, the paiyan, obviously more intent in listening to a new Tamil number in FM makes a slip. And you wake up to find a quarter of your mouchstache gone. The offender looks at you miserably for all your pity.

Hmm, you give a sigh and accept the world's fate. The boy quickly takes the whole mush off and through slit eyes you see yourself for the first time on the mirror, sans mouthstache. You console yourself of it neither adding nor reducing the beauty of your great face.

With the shaving session taking its toll, you now wait for the senior to start his battle with your head. He starts off with pleasant questions about your state of life and even trying vaguely to boost you up saying, 'Meesai illama edupaadhaan Sir irukku.

As every barber does, he finishes off the back of the head first and had almost finished your left side of the head when all the hell breaks loose. There is a commotion on road. Shouts ring through the air. Everyone goes out to see what the thing is about. Neglecting the state you are in, you too get anxious and join them outside. There's some stone throwing going on as some party procession opposing Karnataka's decision not to release Cauvery water turns violent. Even before you realize the full gravity of the situation, traffic comes to a standstill & shops start pulling down shutters. The saloon, where you were inside a few minutes ago closes shop too! You stand there with one side of your hair cut, not knowing what to do next.

As the scene turns more tense, you think it wise to go home. As you approach your neighborhood, a kid asks 'Enna uncle, space age hair style aa?'. You smile sheepishly at him and without answering rush back into your bachelor's apartment.

You think hard and hardly think at the same time to get rid of the mess you are in. You finally think it best to ring one of your friends up and ask him do the rest of the cut. You reason to yourselves, afterall, it's only going to be a temporary cut. Within a day or two, you can go back to the saloon and get trimmed up properly.

Your friend agrees and he arrives at your door saying how easy it is to hold a pair of scissors and run through one's hair. You submit yourself to fate for the thrid time that miserable Sunday. As your friend starts to show his amateurish skills on your head, you soon find that the left and right sides of your head aren't going to match at all. This moment there seems to be a little more hair on to your right while the next moment the balance tilts to the other side. A point arrives where no more hair would pass through the comb's teeth and still you aren't on the clear.

Totally disillusioned by now, you finally give the go ahead to your friend to give you a complete mottai. As he finishes, the phone rings. It's mom from your native, after hearing the Flash news of Sun TV and the breaking news of NDTV wanting to enquire your safe whereabouts. As you tell her you are safe and sound at home, she finishes off saying 'Dei, Samayapuram Maariyathaalukku romba naal vendudhal onnu baaki irukku da, Tiruchi vantha mudi irakanum unakku'.

Note: The idea to write the above obviously struck while i was taking a haircut. And the way to write in second person was from a short story by David Morrell. The (supposed) humor inspiration is from one of Sujata's short stories, 'Kudhirai'.