There have been quite a number of posts that try to tell you how abysmal my worth as an engineering student is. But that is just a synecdoche. My life as a whole is worthless. And the vulgar display of ineptitude continues.
I woke up today. I had to wake up today, on the best of October Sundays, for something as measly as a haircut. And after a sprightly walk in the rain down a surprisingly un-flooded street, I reached the hairdresser’s shop (Billu Barber is a nice movie by the way). My hairdresser’s shop is a nice warm place and the owner’s (who is one of the two ‘stylists’ ) house abuts the shop. Almost all of the times I’ve needed a trim, I was handled by the other stylist. I still don’t know their names. Even after six years here. My ‘regular’ barber is younger than the owner by a generation. And he cared enough to know how less I cared about how my head was going to look. There was (is) a kind of understanding. I say nothing: I look human (compared to: I open my mouth and look like Einstein).
Today, however, I was handled by the owner himself. In all those minutes of waiting for my turn in the past six years, I had noticed this person working through the eclectic mix of hair (and more noticably, people) with such ease and eloquence. And now it was my turn. I am not much of a talker. The ‘other’ stylist would know, considering an uttered-word ratio of a hundred to one between us. So, out of all days, I chose today to utter, “Chota kar do, aage se thoda kam karna.” Scissors began to snap all around me. After the side-top area of my head was a little lighter, he asked, “Itna theek hai na? Ki aur chota mangta hai?” I said, after pretending to examine his work, “Haan, thoda aur chota kar sakte ho toh karo. Baal khada toh nahi hoga na?” With no change of expression, he said, “Karne ko bolega toh karega. Khada hua to kya kar sakta hai.” I arched my forehead to appear to be re-examining my head. “Rehne do fir, khada ho jaega,” I said. The other side of my head was under repairs by this time. I repeated, “Rehne do.” He said, “Haan, rehne hi diya hai. Maine kuch kiya kya? Abhi tu hi vichaar kar, aur chota karega toh khada toh hoega hi na. Mereko malum hai khada hoega, isiliye chhod diya hai. Abhi dekh achchese baal ghuma sakta hai. Acha dikhega.”
I tried to explain why I would want to have shorter hair. But there was nothing concrete. All I could do was give a stupid, irreleveant face-saver, “Woh college mein presentation vagera hota hai na, isiliye chota raha baal toh acha dikhega.” And there was a reply, albeit with long pauses in between, “Acha dikhneka toh college vagera kuch sochneka nahi. Thoda dimaag laganeka. Nahi toh machine maarke khatam karneka. Acha nahi dikhega toh bhi college mein chalega. Bahar acha dikhta hai, yeh koi nahi dekhta. Padhai dekhta hai. Acha dikhne se kaam thodi milta hai. Fir bhi tu bolta hai toh aur chota kar deta hoon.”
With the silliest of smiles on my face, I nodded to ask him to let it be as it is. And he continued with my head. “Kaunsa class mein hai?” he asked. “Third year” I said. “Third year engineering” “Arre! Engineering mein hai? Engineering mein kaun dekhta hai acha dikhta hai ki nahi? Sab padhai dekhte hain. Dekh, main saatvi (7th) pass hoon. Sevanth class. Mereko malum hai kya acha dikhega. Machine hi maarna chahiye. Abhi mat maar, (chuckle) agli baar. Engineer hoke kya sochta hai tu. Dekh tereko aadha engineer main banata hoon. Ab yeh theek hai? Ki aur chota karu?” With no option but to smile, and agree to his rhetoric, I said, “Haan bas. Theek hai yeh.”
With the finishing touches done, the sheet removed, I got up from the chair and handed him the money. And with the lazy diligence of an experienced barber, he returned the change, “Kyun? Banaya na tereko aadha engineer?” And I still had nothing to do but agree smilingly. I gestured a playful complaint to my ‘regular’ hairdresser, to say, “Kitna sunata hai!” And with his agreement, I turned away, into the rain, onto to the surprisingly un-flooded street. Heard behind me, “Kya bhai, usko aadha engineer bana diya aapne.”