Tag Archives: India

Do They Do It With Mirrors? (A Mystery Of Agatha-Christie-esque Proportions)

There are a mere handful of people who have seen me naked since I gained adulthood. Yeah, I know that’s pathetic considering I have lived the life of a debauched single guy for many years. And, it is especially so when I confess that I have included in that handful, all the barbers that I have had rendezvous with during this time. Yes, barbers, because that is one breed of ravagers who have seen me at my most vulnerable. Them, with their shifty eyes, fidgety hands and obtrusive tools, chipping away at my soul one thrust at a time, and me, perched atop their chair, tender and defenseless under a flimsy satin sheet. With naked fear in my eyes. Ripe for pillage. And the subsequent shame, ridicule and ostracism that always ensues.

Barbers. The Modern Day Barbarians.

The good old days when I would just run the lawn mower on my head myself every 5 days.

The good old days when I would just run the lawn mower on my head myself every 5 days.

The other day, the sadomasochist in me reared his ugly head again after lying dormant for months. My hair had gotten too long and anarchic and needed to be clipped, nipped and whipped into submission. Within minutes, I found myself bound and gagged (ok, so maybe not literally) to a beauty chair at a salon called Finesse (oh, the irony). The perpetrator, who introduced himself as Brijesh, may not have been in leather but was wearing earrings, which was quietly reassuring. The man looked at me and asked me how I liked it. “Well, why don’t you surprise me?” I said. He was flummoxed for this was not what he was accustomed to hearing. He was a simple man with 3 simple settings – Short, Medium and Long. Anyway, he proceeded to give me an explanation that made no sense. As my blood pressure elevated and my pulse rate shot up under my deceptive composure, Brijesh Scissorhands went about doing bad things to me neck up. After half an hour of elaborate fussing, I must say, I did look like a human being with a real address. Well, for ten minutes, anyway.

Ten minutes later, I was found weeping into my pillow at home. It was the same old story. Was I ever going to learn?

Barbers (and I am including everyone of their ilk in this generic category – from the pretentious hair stylists and experts to the unassuming neighbourhood ‘saloon’/’parlour’ boys and girls) have got to be the worst clairvoyants in the world. How else to describe someone who has absolutely no idea as to what his own creation is going to look like the very next day (or in the next ten minutes, as my most recent episode)? And that brings me to a side-bar question – Given the proclivity of ‘Haircuts’ to fail within hours, why aren’t verbs like disintegrate, dissipate, evaporate etc. used more often in their context? For example, this is how one could use them in a sentence (or three) – “Jack screamed ‘I’m the King of the World’ as he left the hair salon, but even before Rose had a chance to check out his sick style, his haircut had evaporated. Jack felt robbed, after all, he had paid 5 whole shillings for it. Eventually, none of that mattered much because within the hour, his boat sank and he was dead.”

Now, while your salon-style haircut may have the lifespan of an insect, do remember that all barbers are not equally bad. Some are worse. For example, I am wary of those who are extremely chatty. They want to know everything about you – who you are, where you live, whether you like parrots etc. I am not quite sure what their modus operandi is. I suspect all of this kind to be serial killers. You know, the ones who would keep a lock of your hair as a memento? Those. Next time I run into one of this kind, I am going to make sure I take away with me every single strand of my chopped hair. Beat that, bitch!

And then I got tired of the lawn mower....and let the hair grow.

And then I got tired of the lawn mower….and let the hair grow.

Then there is the category of barbers who have complicated conversations with you about your hair. They would make you sit on that chair and stare at you for several minutes, inspecting you like an unsculpted rock from all possible angles. Prepare for impending disaster if they start discussing your “options”, much like a brain surgeon discussing a trickily located tumor. For example, a simple question from you like – “What do you recommend?” – could yield the following answer, with some swishy moves of their stylish hands – “I am thinking we should approach this from the top – give it a longish look from the right and a slightly conventional look in the front, because, frankly, there isn’t much to go on there. Then, some heavy trimming at the back to control the bounce otherwise it will be difficult to manage all that body. And the back should be roundish, not like it is now. But if you absolutely prefer squarish, we could do that, too, but we should really, really try to avoid that. Ok?”

Say what? You lost me at – ‘there isn’t much to go on there’. For the next 30 minutes, you can think of nothing else but that giant bald spot that is to be your fate by, what, next week? And then for several nights, tossing and turning wondering what to do about it. Olive oil? Multani Mitti? Curd? Milk? Hamdard ka Badam Rogan Shirin? Aishwarya’s 5-solutions-in-1 shampoo?  And, pray, who is “WE” for goodness sake? How many alter egos do I need to tip here?

Occasionally, you will be accosted by a barber whose first reaction after fondling you for several minutes will be – “I love it –so soft! How about I style it like Johnny Depp (or worse, Harry Styles)?” When faced with such a scenario, I urge you to run, not walk out of the salon. Don’t even bother picking up your iPhone and car keys – those trifles of your life can be replaced once you are safely away.

And more still

And more still

In closing, alas, I have no golden thoughts. If you have no hair, or if Hobo is your look, rest assured that God has been kind to you. The rest deal with this eternal question every waking moment of their lives – How is it possible for plain-jane-ordinary you to look like John Abraham when you are given the 360 mirror treatment at the salon, but promptly decompose to a Mayawati the moment you step out? HOW is that possible?

Next time, I am going to take a closer look at those mirrors.

 

Deride Without Prejudice

In the past year, I have come across but just a handful of blogs that are aimed at readers with discerning taste. Among the best of those is Subho’s Jejune Diet (SJD, for short), managed by the extremely well-versed Subhorup Dasgupta. His choice of topic is always compelling, his writing style articulate, and his narration captivating. So imagine my delight (and surprise) when he asked me to do a guest post for him, despite the potty mouth that I am!

I hope that with this piece, I have done justice to what his cultivated audience expects to read at SJD. I must say, I had a blast writing this post. Hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did writing it. Thanks, Subho, for the opportunity!

 

janeaustentea

Hundreds of years ago, a plain Jane English writer called Jane Austin wrote an epochal novel called ‘Pride and Prejudice’. Quite miraculous that she would achieve that, for, the woman had heard nothing of Blogging in her day. Despite that, how she procured the clarity of thought, the grasp of storytelling technique, and dry wit and humour, attributes that all Indian Bloggers are naturally blessed with the first time they hold aloft a pen, we shall never know.

Anyway, my research has shown that Miss Austin may not have found it that facile to produce her seminal work, as proven by the multiple versions of Chapter 47 that she wrote longhand, one of which I have reproduced here. Moreover, I found it quite interesting that this particular trashed piece alludes to a certain beverage that Subhorup has great affinity to – making this a remarkably serendipitous find! Read on to find out more.

I wish Miss Austin had retained this passage in the book instead of the inferior one that she ultimately went with. Had her writing been of the Blogosphere born, that lapse of judgment would have never occurred.

Ah, well.

 

Read the rest at Subho’s blog using the link below. And don’t miss the glorious introduction he has given me at the top. Frankly, no kinder words have ever been expressed! I shall cherish them for a lifetime.

 

http://subhorup.blogspot.in/2013/04/rickie-khosla-jane-austen-blend-of-tea.html

 

 

The Day Gandhi Died

January 30, 1948 is an important date in modern Indian history. Who’s to say what the course of this nation might have been had that day gone differently. Here is a short story I wrote with that historic incident as the backdrop.

I don’t do serious fiction often, so your critique on the story, especially if you don’t like it, will be greatly appreciated!  

 

***

The Young Man pats the inside pocket of his waistcoat to make sure that the package is still secure. He feels comforted by the touch.

It is a late-January morning in Delhi. The air is crisp, clean and cold. The sun has been up for a couple of hours, pushing forth its ample light yet feeble warmth around the dew drenched verdure. The birds have been at play all morning, noisily shouting cryptic and repetitive instructions at each other. The sky is a freshly minted blue, almost speckless, except for a large spillage of three shades of white towards the west.

The Prayer Meeting is about to commence momentarily.

The two uniformed sentries at the Birla House gate keep a lazy eye on the human mass that is unhurriedly making its way to the prayer hall. One of them makes eye contact with The Young Man as he passes him by. The Young Man folds his hands in greeting which the turbaned guard acknowledges with a quick nod followed by a head gesture as if to say, ‘Please keep moving’.

Amid the sounds of slow shuffling feet, The Young Man looks around him. The ambience is of solemn but affected reverence, the kind that usually manifests on its own in the presence of inordinate greatness close by. He sees men and women of disparate breeding and faiths. Most are wearing white, the universally endorsed colour of deference. And also, purity, especially the kind that is shaped from homespun yarn. To him, it seems that for these people, Khadi is not merely a token of sentimental remembrance or exhibited gratitude, it is more a representation of their inner conscience of humility and simplicity. He looks down at his own kurta. It is light brown, mill produced. He feels a sudden flush of annoyance, of not having picked a garment that would have allowed him greater congruity with his surroundings. But what am I to do, he thinks to himself. This is a special day, and he wants to look his best regardless of the testimony that his vêtements might affirm.

A couple of people behind The Young Man are overheard talking about not going straight to the prayer hall. They discuss staying outside in the garden itself. “You see, he will come through this path on his way to the hall,” says one. “We will get a better view if we just wait here then. I might even be able to touch his feet!” surmises his partner excitedly.

It is clear to The Young Man what he must do.

A few more minutes pass. The arriving crowds keep making their way from the outside gate to the prayer hall, eventually thinning to a trickle. Ever so often, a few, mainly enthusiastic young bucks, break from convention and congregate around The Young Man and the two others who started this satellite assembly. There is a now a reasonable number clustered around The Young Man.

“Are you certain that he is going to come this way?” asks The Young Man to a grim looking fellow standing next to him.

“Yes. He is going to emerge from there,” the man replies, turning his head and pointing to the large building with an arched entrance flanking the left side of the garden. “He always follows the same route.”

It appears that the grim fellow has been here before. He sounds quite certain.

“I have been coming here every day for the past several days,” the grim man confirms voluntarily. “It’s the same walk, the same time. Every morning.”

The grim man seems a trifle lost in thought. Pre-occupied. Conflicted, almost.

“It is my first time here,” The Young Man says to continue their dialogue. “I hope I have the fortitude to accomplish what I have come here to do today.”

The Young Man’s words seem to shake the grim looking fellow out of his thoughts.

“We all wish we have the fortitude to accomplish what we have set ourselves out to do, don’t we?” he says. “Unfortunately, not all of us are as strong as we think we are.”

“I think we are all strong,” retorts The Young Man. “It’s just that some find their strength sooner than others.”

“Then I guess if you have the conviction, your time will come,” the grim fellow responds. “Perhaps today.”

Then adding wistfully, “Or perhaps tomorrow. Maybe even next year.”

The Young Man looks at his grim companion who seems lost in thought again.

Several more minutes pass. These ones in silence.

The sudden sounds of commotion on the left flank are unmistakable. A group of people, centered by the dhoti clad man everyone has come to see, emerges from the arched entrance, causing an immediate stir among the crowd waiting in the garden. A few break away and run towards the prayer hall, wanting to be the ones to herald the imminent news to those waiting inside. Most others, including The Young Man and his new acquaintance, stay put and peer at the emerging party expectantly.

“Here he comes!” The Young Man says, stating the obvious. The grim fellow is stiff and says nothing.

The Young Man again notices his new acquaintance’s face. It appears to be a picture of tumult, as if a million conflicting emotions are waging an unruly battle – one whose outcome is far from certain.

As the emerging party strides purposefully towards the prayer hall, the animated assembly in its path parts to either side making way. The worn, elderly man in the middle folds his hands in greeting as he flashes his warm toothless smile – a smile that has not infrequently brought the mightiest to their knees. His mesmerized audience can do little more than mirror the old man’s greeting and bow its head in obeisance. Many eyes moisten. A few tremulous hands lurch forward to touch the coarse homespun shawl covering the frail man.

Now only a few steps away, The Young Man, who has prepped for this moment in his mind a dozen times, freezes with anxiety. His leaden arms wouldn’t move and the words in his head splinter into pieces at the tip of his tongue. His skin goes sallow. The biggest moment of his young life is upon him, and yet, his body and soul seem to abandon him, leaving him bereft of action or thought.

The dhoti clad man and his troop are merely a breath away now. The moment is about to be lost.

Right at that instant, as if in slow motion, The Young Man notices his grim companion break away from his side and walk directly on to the path of the old man’s pack. He falls to his knees, drops his head and folds his hands, bringing the group to an abrupt stop.

“Brother, Bapu is already late,” says a kindly voice.

Two frail arms start to bend forward to coax the man in their path back to his feet. It is perhaps just the nudge The Young Man needs to rediscover his voice.

Rediscover his Conviction.

As his grim faced partner rises and steps away, The Young Man assumes his place.

“Bapu, I have travelled for several days and nights from Champaran to meet you. You may not remember this now but many years ago, when you launched your first satyagraha from our village Motihari, you stayed at my grandparents’ hut. And despite our caste and our poverty, there was only one person in that entire village that you would accept water from. It was from a little child. Do you remember her? That was my Mai.”

“Today, I am the first Harijan in my state to clear the Indian Administrative Services exam. And my Mai felt that the first person to solemnize my achievement with a piece of sweet should be you.”

The Young Man quickly fumbles into the inner pocket of his waistcoat and brings out a small package. His nervous fingers tear open the modest newspaper wrapping.

“No one in our village will bless my success before you do. Bapu, won’t you accept some gur from our house?”

The frail old man, his eyes now wet, extends his bent fingers towards the offering and takes a piece of jaggery. He places his other hand on The Young Man’s bowed head. The Young Man closes his eyes as if silently partaking unspoken blessings.

“Hey Ram.”

Time appears to be still for several moments.

“Bapu?” repeats the kindly voice of Bapu’s companion.

With polite folded hands, the human impediment in the old man’s path withdraws, and the troop resumes its brisk pace towards the prayer hall.

The assembly around The Young Man starts to break up, too. Most follow the departing group, quickly falling in brisk step behind them. A few remain, unsure of what to do next. One of them stares hard at The Young Man.

“You froze,” the grim fellow says finally. “I figured I had to stop Bapu so you could do what you had to. After all, you had come a long way for this.”

The Young Man merely nods his head. The two men stare at each other for another moment, instantly reliving perhaps the singular experience of their lifetime. Then, both smile.

“Isn’t it strange that we have not yet introduced ourselves to each other? I am Nathu Ram Godse from Poona. What’s your name?”

 

Mahatma Gandhi

 

If you liked this, you might also enjoy another short story I wrote a while ago. That also had a historical backdrop and was titled – The Littered Sky. Click this link : http://reekycoleslaw.com/?p=382

 

 

A Fond Farewell

Over the past year, I have made several friends in the blogging community. One of the nicest and friendliest persons I have come across is Akanksha Dureja. Several weeks ago, she asked me to write a guest post for her blog – the charming Direct Dil Se. I had been mulling over the right topic to choose for her, which was a trifle difficult task given the eclectic choice of subjects that she chooses to write on.

And then, I heard the happy-sad news – Akanksha was moving to the UK for work for a year, most likely longer. The news made me, as I am sure all her other friends too, happy because it is always nice to see your friends flourish in their careers. But sad, too, because it is never easy to part with them. My guest post for her is my way to say Au Revoir, Akanksha – until we meet again.

I know what most of you are doing now – planning your next holiday in the UK, right? After all, no more worries of booking expensive hotel accommodation or paying through your nose for pricey meals! (Oh, did I mention that Akanksha is a great cook?)

 

Do read my post on Direct Dil Se. My first attempt at writing a modern day fairy tale. With the hope that the reality for Akanksha will be even more joyous and eventful than the one I have described!

Akanksha Dureja : The London Diaries

 

See you later, Alligator!

See you later, Alligator!

Move Over, MaSi, NaMo and RaGa, Blogwati-G Is Here!

Is it possible to forge great friendships over the blogosphere? Despite all its cattiness, oneupmanship and suspect-talent? The answer is a resounding – Yes! And one need not go any further than to observe the kinship between Vinita Bahl and me. Yes, that’s the irrepressible Blogwati-G whose delightful blog goes by the apt description of – Zindagi Mil Hi Gayi Dobara! After all, isn’t that what happened with all of us when we started blogging – a rediscovery of our own 50-shades that had perhaps been buried under several layers of the ‘regular’, the mundane and the ennui?

Writing this piece for her was a pleasure especially because I was able to communicate the following points – that she and I will forever be 3 am friends to each other (even though it remains an untested phenomenon as of yet!), that she is a p-e-r-s-o-n-a-l-i-t-y in the truest sense, that she will make a splendid First PM from the Blogging Caste (which has strangely not been declared SC/ST/OBC yet), that Sunanda, her maid, deserves a raise, and that we must respect Bhutan as our nation’s best (and perhaps the only true) friend.

But mainly because she calls me ‘Chikni Soorat’ and I kind of like that! 

And now, without further ado, here is my outrageous piece on Blogwati-G’s blog. Do click the link below if you aren’t bored already!

 

Z zings Zindagi!

 

(Image : Courtesy Google)

(Image : Courtesy Google)