Sunday, May 22, 2005

A Hair-raising tale

"Addy's hair are perpendicular to his scalp, 'nuff said"
"He's shed his hair for more durable and sensitive antennae"
"Aapka baal nagaland house ke logon ki tarah hai - mota. Mujhe har baar kainchee badalnee padti hai"
"His head with its scalp of hair resembles a puffer fish all puffed up"

All odes to my hair, once a live tribute to a point charge's electric field... diverging radially outwards from a point right inside my scalp.

My cousins called it "khandani baal". Apparently, the family genes perpetrate a hairstyle which stands on end. However, before any of them reached the age of eighteen, they had been magically cured of the electric field and sported more familiar and smarter looking partings. But not me, nuh-huh. In my case, the familiar carpet hair refused to sit down. Like freedom fighters bent on gaining independence, they stood right through onslaughts as varied as mom's applications of oil, the hairstylist's regular scissors and comb, and many a succesful hair gel.

There was a time when a particular "famous" hairstylist finally accepted defeat. "I'm sorry, I've seen nothing like this before. I can't do anything about it. Maybe next month..." He refused to accept payment!

At school, I was jibed at as the "porcupine" or more affectionately "the guy with the carpet hair" with some of the more adventurous kind ruffling my hair - a truly enjoyable experience, I was told. In fact, if somebody from school bumps into me, their first remark is - "Wait a minute... Aditya Pandey, oh my God, whatever happened to your pointy hair?"

And so it is. But I know the pointy hair is all but gone. The secret is just the length. Grow hair long enough and it's bound to lay down - after all, even thick pointy hair can't defy the laws of Physics. It all began in third year, when tired of the same style I'd been a victim of for all these years, I decided to not get my hair cut for several months. When I finally did go to the barber, he actually told me to come visit him more often! And as an onlooking friend of mine exclaimed - "It was like shearing the wool off a sheep! Enough hair to make a truckload of wigs and still weave a sweater out of the rest." It was that long. Over thirteen inches and counting.

It was almost miraculous - what happened after that haircut. Like a class of rowdy students suddenly behaving well with the teacher pondering confused what trick they have up their collective sleeve, my hair just settled down. Just like that. No attempt at any anti-gravity stunts. No defiance to stand tall and face the world again. And for a while, it was good. It was new and smart. I looked into the mirror and felt different.

All in vain. Only to suddenly burst forth into full bloom after the subsequent bath! And not just the "natural" antenna-like stance. Something stuck in the middle. Like a cross between a lady's locks and the hair on a boar's tail. It might even have looked better before.

So I tried a middle parting. And it was good again. All seemed well till I went home - hair all grown long, and a parting to rival Salman Khan's in "Tere Bin". Then mom saw it. Four hours later, my new hairstyle had vanished, replaced by half-crazed antennae again.

Since that time, I've tried half a dozen different things, but the resolve of my hair never fails. It's still the ugly cross kind. No matter how long. The worst part is, even shortening it doesn't seem much of a help.

Well, at least it's not "porcupine" any more.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

The roaring ocean

I finally understood the meaning of "roaring ocean". A first hand experience is worth a million words in a million books, however descriptively written.

There was a general warning today about the sea behaving abnormally in Chennai. Fishermen were cautioned not to venture too far. My friends and I, not knowing this fact, decided to spend some time at the beach tonight. After all, the weather had suddenly turned pleasant in the evening, and the beach by night looks all the more mysterious.

When we got there at first, it all seemed normal. Then, we noticed that the beachfront was considerably steeper than normal tonight. Also, the total absence of sea breeze. You could light a match without it blown off in half a second. Yes, I tried it. It burnt through and I had to fling it away before the flame touched my fingers. That kind of breeze. The water near the beachfront had collected in some sort of a pool. Obviously, it was much deeper than usual. It was also totally calm. The waves were coming, strangely, in an oblique direction and breaking several metres away from the beach. It was an awesome sight, a Mexican wave breaking up here at one instant and elsewhere a few seconds later, making a great splash and all. As if a large fish was swimming along the coast in one direction and its fin was cutting across the water in a straight line. Mysterious and yet blood-curdling at the same time. We had the jitters anticipating a giant tsunami washing us up before we knew it.

Ah yes, I forget, the sounds. At times the sea would go totally calm, with just the swish-swash of stagnated water splashing around. Then a new wave would come and break, and make a sound like a huge vacuum cleaner on Full Suck. Many more smaller waves would follow and the result was a cacophony which sounded like a deaf band beating their drums totally out of tune. It sounded like a warning alarm. Heck, it even looked like a military base after a warning alarm has gone off. White foaming waves here, there, everywhere, all criss-crossing each other in random directions.

We stayed there for the better part of an hour, seeing the waves growing only bigger. When we left, the biggest waves, about 20 metres into the sea, must have been at least ten feet high.

The next logical step would be to inspect the beach in the daytime, and I plan to do just that tomorrow.