Friday, March 30, 2012

9 Years, 4 Months, 13 Days

Well, well, well and well. One blog topic less in November from now on!

Finally the saga comes to an end. My mind is scripting pages and pages of thoughts, but I guess it is sufficient to pen Wooo hooo what a ride!"


Friday, March 23, 2012

The Ripple Effect

Imagine a pond.
The water in the pond is still.
There is no wind.
There are small floating objects on the surface.
Serenity and peacefulness everywhere.

Now imagine an object falling in the midst of the pond.
The falling of the object causes concentric waves.
The ripple effect of the waves is felt all through the pond.
Some of the floating objects get displaced.
This causes agitation and anxiousness.

I was once a floating object that had got displaced.
But this time, I am that object that caused the waves.
I somehow feel sorry for causing all the brouhaha but yet,
As many people wisely informed me,
“You gotta do what you gotta do.”

Thursday, March 22, 2012

And 3 years later...



The Weighing Machine - II

Whenever my wife stands on the weighing machine and see the scale go lower than she expected, she grimaces.

Whenever I stand on the weighing machine and see the scale go lower than I expect, I smile.

It is strange how lives change in diametrically opposite directions.

Saturday, March 10, 2012


The earliest memory of a barbershop that I have is a small posh rectangular shop in Jayanagar 8th block, way back in mid 1980s. Posh because it was filled with grand mirrors on all the walls, and a visit once in a month was a much sought-after event. Usually I was accompanied by my father and since I was too small to be seated on the grand cushion chair, I was elevated to the mirror-level with the help of a wooden plank. I didn’t mind missing out on the cushion nor the wooden hardness as long as I was compensated by being able to see myself as well as the neighbourhood goings-on in the mirror.

When we moved to Jayanagar 4th block in 1989, I guess I was tall enough to enjoy the cushion. It was a different barbershop though, the one closer to the new home. It was called “OK Hair Dressers”.  Funny name, and I never forgot it. Amongst its peers, it was considered to be the “poshest” of all. Very expensive too, I believe. Mainly attributed to the presence of a television set on the upper far left corner of the establishment. Considering that hair cut was a Sunday morning ritual (had school on Saturdays too), and the most popular cartoons and Chitrahaar being aired at the same time (whole of India had only one channel at that time), the extra bucks seemed worth it. Slowly, when the craze of the cartoons and Chitrahaar ebbed, the extra money seemed unnecessary, and I started experimenting with lower classed establishments.

Names of many of these establishments escape me but I distinctly remember their locations. There was one on the 18th main street that I vividly recollect. Although there was no issue with the actual hair-cut, the crowd and the behavior within the shop was jarring. I felt as I was in the midst of rowdies. Added to this was the issue of door never being closed. This somewhat embarrassed me. Perhaps I was always used to the barbershop’s door being closed that an open-door barbershop never gelled well with me. I decided that it was my first and last. After experimenting in and around all the barbershops and complaining about the rates (which was more or less started at INR 20 and steeped up to INR 40 due to inflation) in deep detail with my grandfather every one Sunday of the month, I decided that time was now an important factor than money. So I decided to stick to the nearest, whatever be the rate. As it turned out the nearest was a decent establishment with moderate rate and I stuck to it loyally until a barbershop opened just a few yards from my home.

This newbie opened the shop in a grandiose scale with respect to the art of haircutting. Although the establishment in itself was so tiny that only 2-3 people could wait on the sofa, the uniform of the barber, the exquisite dentist-like chair with elongated moving-leg-rest and the range of barber-paraphernalia were overwhelming. The AC was unheard of in Bangalore barbershop, although I knew that in other Indian metropolitan cities, an AC barbershop was a common thing due to the extreme heat. Rumour had it that this barber himself was from a 5-star hotel. When my turn came, he used a rummy tool on my head which stunned me. All these years I was used to the synchronized snip-snip of the comb and the scissors and now, for the first time, a machine was being used on my hair. That was it. I went back to my previous barber.

I guess that barber near my home never got on well with others in my neighbourhood too because soon he went off and someone else took over from him. This guy was an elderly gentleman with a dedicated teenage grandson, who learnt the art of “barberhood” and customer satisfaction very soon. The elderly gentleman just took over the finances, remodeled the hair salon to slightly bigger size, and made it much more common-man friendly whereas the teenager roped in some of his pals to perform the ‘Service-with-a-smile’ act. He encouraged friendly banter, spoke about recent Kannada movies and songs, offered coffee during breaks and returned change with both hands giving respect completely. He thanked profusely for the visit and spoke about how he wanted to expand this business.

This setting worked best for me. It was the nearest to my home – just a few steps. It was moderately charged (touched the INR 50 in late 2000s) and I was just a few years elder than the barber which added a twist to the barber-client relationship. This went on for a long time until it was time for me to travel to the United States.

Marlborough, USA. My first haircut in US was a disaster. She asked me to pick a number. Before I knew it, I said 3 and to my horror I realized later that lower the number, smaller will be the hair. I missed the snip-snip of the comb and the scissor. Instead it was a mix of the machine, of somewhat awkwardly holding the hair in a fist and then snipping. It was mildly irritating during the process but the end was even worse. It took many months for the hair to grow back and I always wondered why I had to tip a barber. It was a small establishment, near to my apt and for the first time in my life, my hair was cut by an opposite gender. It was a strange experience. To be fair to her though, she did her job well. Just that it was an unknown pitch to me. Once I realized my mistake, I changed gears accordingly.

Woburn, MA, USA, 2011. There was a barbershop right opposite my apartment but it was closed on Sundays and hence I could never visit it. But it just so happened that twenty feet here or there in Woburn Main Street, and one ends up with a barbershop. The one I chose was the one that was open on Sundays. The lady who attended to me was from Brazil, and her home was adjacent to the shop. In fact, to go to her house, one had to walk through the store! And then, there I was thinking about the variety of barbershops that I have experienced, when I met the best of the lot in Nashua, NH, USA, 2012.

As part of move-in mailers, I received a $4.99 coupon from a nearby barbershop called Great Clips. It was the first time I had heard of them. I never had had a hair-cut in US for less than $12, and I thought $4.99 was a very good deal. When I did more research, I found out they have a web-site, was franchised and also had online check-in, something that I thought was done only with respect to airlines! Anyways, when I entered, all the barbers exclaimed “Welcome to Great Clips!” Now, isn’t that a warm welcome or what! It is something that is done for each customer entering the store!

Anyways, the lady at the counter asked me to register (name, number, etc) and it was a pleasant experience all around, especially because when I checked out I was given another coupon (more than current but less than actual). Nice way of customer retention, I felt. So, there I go again. This time, even before I could specify how I need my hair cut, the barber (this lady was different from before) asked me if I wanted same way as the last time, and I said yes. Since this was a mystery, I asked her how she knew my previous choice. Apparently a record goes into each registered user on the user’s preferences so that the user need not specify each time what he wants. Only thing he needs to say or confirm if it is the same way as previous and the barber is all set. Wow. That’s all I could think. A simple thing as hair-cutting can be advanced to such heights of professionalism as Gift cards, Haircut reminders, etc. The first two times I had come to Great Clips due to the coupons but the third time – although Cost Cutters and Supercuts was nearer to my house – I still preferred GC because I needn’t had to specify how I wanted my hair cut! What an amazing way of holding onto new customers such as me! But if I thought that was the best of my experience with “barbership”, I was wrong.

It was time for the first haircut for my daughter who is almost a year and half old. Thanks to my wife who had done some research on the topic, we went to Snip-Its. This is a barbershop exclusively for kids, and the atmosphere is as if you are entering into a Disneyland. Cutting infants and toddlers’ hair is so difficult and hence the ambience is made conducive to kids to divert the attention from the actual snip-snip. Be it personalized robotic-looking PCs portraying cartoonic ads of Snip-its or a horde of toys and goodies at arm’s length, it seemed as if hair-cut was the last thing on the agenda! The icing on the top of the cake was a complete set of souvenir for the first hair cut: A bravery certificate, a comb, few strands of hair, a toy and a picture!

My, my! It just keeps getting better and better – Man continues to exceed Himself and it is this thing in Life that is enchanting and enriching! I only hope that that teenage barber near my home in Jayanagar also achieves such impressive feats in his chosen profession…

Thursday, March 08, 2012

Natural Pattern

There is a guy
Who stays in the same apartment complex where I stay
And also works in the same office campus where I work.

I possess a silver Honda Civic
Whereas he a brown Honda Civic.

Today morning, the silver left the apartment complex first
Only to be followed by the brown
All the way to the office.

Today evening, the brown left the office campus first
Only to be followed by the silver
All the way to the home.

Neither he nor I spoke to one another
About leaving home or office.

And yet Nature created this nice little coincidental pattern
Which made me agog
And made me blog!


Tuesday, March 06, 2012

The Pink Honda Civic

There is a community college very close to my house. Each day on my way to office or on my back home from office (that’s four times a day considering I come home for lunch), I have to pass by this college in my car. There is no compound or partition that separates the parking lot from the road and hence there is complete visibility of all cars in the parking lot.

On couple of instances when I was passing through the college, I noticed a pink Honda Civic car entering into the college campus. The striking color boggled me because I had not seen a pink car before in my life. As can be guessed, there were few gals in the car and no doubt the car belonged to one of them. I was intrigued about the obsession of the color pink with gals. In fact, I happened to see this particular car enter the campus a couple of times at the same time I was passing through the college campus.

After this incident, perhaps because it was easy to distinguish it amongst 100 visible cars or perhaps because i wanted to humor myself daily, each time I passed through the college I gave a quick glance over all the cars in the parking lot and searched for that pink Honda civic. Usually I found it within a few seconds. This became a game of sorts. I would only get about 4-5 seconds for scanning through the parking lot, and I would be driving at about 25 mph on a single-lane two-way road. So, with these slight challenges, it was a quirky self-made game with no gain no loss, and yet this tiny desire to win. Something to make life interesting, that wee bit more.

As it happened, it was not this quest for pink Honda Civic that eventually gave me joy. This search for a vehicle-in-the-parking-lot, in fact, brought back memories from a distant past. During my college days, I had a crush on a girl. I was too shy to talk to her anyways but I knew the two-wheeler in which she used to come to college. She wasn’t in my class so the only way I knew if she had come to college or not was to quickly glance through the parking lot once a day to check if her two-wheeler was present. Seeing her vehicle in the parking lot was almost as good as seeing her, some kind of an assurance that the day might turn favorably so for me to get a glimpse of her. It was like a hope, daily. Something that made me look forward to in life. It was a special moment – this searching through the parking lot. It was a tense moment too. No vehicle meant she either hadn’t yet come to college or would not come. Which meant there was no hope of seeing her that day. Which meant, it was a boring day!

Now, when I search for this pink car, I am remembered of all this teenage emotions and how strange it all felt then. I don’t get all that excited now when my eyes finally latch on to the car in the parking lot but I surely feel nice remembering those good old days back in college when my eyes latched on to that two-wheeler!