Apr 30, 2010

Talking in Her Shoes

I scampered into the auto behind my friend, both of us covered in foul-smelling sweat like Sunanda Pushkar's stake. The auto sped away from Bandra station after it played a brief round of energetic Kho-Kho with a rabid policeman and away we were to do some shopping.

My friend (lets call him Mr. India for namesake) was on a mission. The mission was as lame as can be; actually not so much since it involved buying slippers for his fiancee. 

I had, perchance, seem to have boasted of my ample shopping expertise with various women in and around my childhood neighbourhood. Mr. India usually hardly pays attention to my tattles and is more involved with the mosquito that has gone up his nose, the blue sky and other matters of cardinal significance. But as luck would have it, this fact fell on his ears, traveled up the cochineal fluid and built a 10-story apartment in his brain. What did not get any portion of the dukedom was the fact that by expertise, I meant standing around, drinking diluted Fanta and eyeballing other females purchasing sarees, slippers, handbags, jewelery and miscellaneous foibles.

Mr. India was in full gear for the mission. He had the exact pencil outline of his fiancee's foot, the sizes according to American, Rhodesian, Swedish and English conversion tables, an extra bulge to his rear suggesting a stuffed wallet and implicit confidence in me. He had a glint of will in his eyes akin to the egregious Mel Gibson beating the crap out of a dozen tribal species. And vice-versa.

Or not.

Mr India had no outline, no size, no money and there were butterflies happily laying eggs in his stomach lining. I was supposed to be his saviour. I felt overrated for the first time in my life. The auto flung its occupants out on Linking Road, Bandra. The road was strewed with shops that sold all sorts of female paraphernalia. We stood and gaped at the future outflows of our hard-earned salaries. After a couple of flies died their natural death inside our mouths, we moved to one end of the pavement and started a mini GD where we evaluated the various criteria to identify the right shop to target.

As all GDs go, we shouted till we were hoarse. But there was a consensus. We randomized and selected a shop that seemed to look exactly like one that a girl would be interested in - colorful, bouffant and did I mention colorful? As we bustled through the milling gang of squeaking college girls, the bearded shopkeeper quit sizing the girls and began sizing us up. It was uncanny.

"Kya chaahiye?", he asked in a voice that subtly underlined the fact that we were guys. We did feel like a couple of polar bears let loose on Mount Road in summer.

We opened our mouths and that is when the faeces hit the rotating electrical appliance.

A small flashback. Both our ancestors loved dosai. All the subsequent generations too loved it. With a dash of chutney and drop of spicy sambhar, it was Amrit. Not the girl; the food. Both my friend and I were no exceptions. The relevancy of this information rests on the inference that both of us were hard core Tams. There was no escaping it. Inevitably, Hindi was French to us. So French, that we refused to acknowledge it even existed. Thousands of Amits, Poojas, Nehas, Ranbirs and Shwetanks advised us the importance of learning it, being in Mumbai. They said the probability of survival is very low if we were bereft of the ability of speaking the language.

We discovered that it was not low - it was zero. As we gestured frantically in broken Hindi and Kaveri-an gymnastics, a small crowd gathered outside the shop to watch the camaraderie. It was not at all funny. 

My friend proposed his interest to buy slippers for his fiancee. We never understood what the shopkeeper understood but he went in and returned with a pair of horseshoes. It was racist to say the least. I stepped in to play my part.

I pointed to my friend and said, "Same height, what size?". The man again disappeared into the bowels of his establishment and returned with a pair of slippers that would have fit a hippopotamus. I gulped as my friend exclaimed, "Nahin! Nahin! Kuch kuch hota. Chotta Shakeela!". The shopkeeper acted bewildered. To the tee.

By now the crowd was in complete splits. I swore in rapid Tamizh to my friend and told him that we might as well go to Nariman Point and throw pieces of Medu Vadai at the Taj Mahal Hotel. And then a wondrous thing happened.

The shopkeeper said in clear, spaced words - "You from Chennai?". It was in perfect Tamil.

We looked at him and we looked at each other. We then hugged and laughed for the first time that evening. Though the hug evoked a nettled babble among the crowd, it was obvious that the show was over. 

Twenty minutes later we were 300 rupees poorer and we had a fantastic pair of slippers. At least to us. We were  joyous. We were least bothered about the size, the color and the design as we went by male intuition.

Anti Climax:
The slippers fit alright. It was the right color too. Just that Mr. India's fiancee already had a pair like that which she had bought for 100 bucks at Spencer Plaza. He got an earful. At that exact time, I was busy assisting my cousin shop for handbags. Male intuition? Bollocks.

Apr 18, 2010

Hairline Fracture

The other day I was standing at the Shampoo rack in Big Bazaar scratching my beard when I stumbled headlong into this rather poor joke. It was so poor that I felt inanely ashamed I possessed the indecency of such an intellect. It was, but, a mere reflection of my frustration and agony.

"What is the difference between a hunter and a day trader? Simple. One shoots at hares and the other hoots at shares."

This story of the aforementioned frustration is almost 23 years ago and actually runs for 23 years in chronology. It started with my Patti. My Patti is a hardcore homeopath - no pills attached. According to her Rapidex English-Tamil-English dictionary, Clinic translated to chemical which in turn translated to evil MNC fluid. She believes that the Earth is a single life-form where we exist symbiotically to preserve each other. This does seem similar to Cameron's blue film - Avatar; but I trust my patti more than than the guy who taught the world that pencil sketching was the way to get into anybody's pants. Her recipe for a hairwash was simple - a sticky, greenish brown and completely vegan sludge.

It can also spook the dickens out of a sloth bear. Twice weekly, I was subjected to a head bath where stinking, green goo irrigated my forehead. Somehow, my hair follicles loved it. They gorged on the green goo and reproduced like the Whores of Babylon. Soon enough, my head was covered with a dense, outgrowth of dark hair. I was happy, my Patti was happy and my friends were green.

And as all good things go, so did my hair. It began the day that my patti found out that she can control me no more. My hormones overran everything on its way including sincere advice and sly referrals to my Dad's pate. All fell on dead hairs. Going on a shampoo spree, I experimented wildly before zeroing in on Pantene since it was the most fragrant smelling and was proven to dispel, nay, eliminate dandruff.

Jeyamalini Shilpa Jetty might have played a minor role in the decision but that is irrelevant to the discussion. My Patti wept in angst as I went full monty and danced wildly in the living room, flinging froth all over the furniture like a gorilla flinging crap. Washing hair was no more a ritual; it was riotous pleasure.

By the time my Patti pointed out the obvious, quite condescendingly, most of my hair had dislodged themselves. I did not believe my Patti, simply because I could not see what she was saying. Only when my friends started pointing and jeering, did I know something was wrong. The very next day I went to an eye doctor. 

That I chose to believe I went myopic before I went bald, did me no good. I was still losing hair by the millions. Additionally, I also discovered that my follicles had hit a rough patch and stopped reproducing altogether. It was like China had suddenly discovered birth control. I had to do some damage control immediately. I turned to the only other person whom I knew would empathize. My dad.

He did not. He first proceeded to laugh at my insecurity, delivered a long sermon and finally put forth a juvenile recommendation which was further endorsed by many women of my time. ("juvenile" is not a pun; Johnson & Johnson baby shampoo was, is and always will be juvenile). Them women ooh-ed and aah-ed over the fact that I had started using baby shampoo. Probably, if I had tried I could have scored a few.

But I was more bothered about my hirsute than her suite. Sadly, the approach was effectively ineffective. Its impotence could be matched only by the presence of Badrinath in the CSK team. The amount of shampoo that I used was neither directly or indirectly proportional to anything that even remotely resembled a strand of hair.

I finally came full circle. I mean, my head resembled a full circle. There was nothing there that would encourage a barber to charge me more. There was only one other option that remained. I swallowed my pride and went and bought Meera Herbal Shampoo. It still smelled horrible and was more or less green goo. But at least, I did not go the way of Cho Ramaswamy.

My patti was ecstatic.